Committee Calls for More Research on Heart Disease, Sleep Apnea

The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology have released a scientific statement on the need for more research for the connection between heart disease and sleep apnea. The statement will be published online in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association and the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

"There have been a number of studies on sleep apnea in the last decade, and those looking at cardiovascular diseases and their associations with sleep apnea are especially compelling," said Virend K. Somers, M.D., D.Phil., chair of the joint statement writing committee, in a recent news release. "We feel it is important to alert the cardiovascular community to the implications of this emerging area of research. It is possible that diagnosing and treating sleep apnea may prove to be an important opportunity to advance our efforts at preventing and treating heart disease."

Though the link between sleep apnea and heart disease is not fully understood, the committee said it issued the statement because of the increasing evidence, the widespread prevalence of sleep apnea, and the rising levels of obesity, particularly in young people. Obesity is a major cause of sleep apnea, and "the epidemic of childhood obesity may be changing the epidemiology of obstructive sleep apnea in children," said Somers, who is professor of medicine and cardiovascular diseases at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

"We need to more clearly define the cause and effect relationship between sleep apnea and cardiovascular diseases and risk factors," Somers said. "There is evidence that sleep apnea may be a cause of some cases of high blood pressure, but for other cardiovascular conditions, the evidence is largely circumstantial."

A full news release, as well as audio and video files of Somers, is available at http://newsblog.mayoclinic.org/2008/07/23/sleep-apnea-and-heart-disease-risk/.

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