Dr. Gregory Y. H. Lip of the University of Birmingham Center for Cardiovascular Sciences in Birmingham, England, and colleagues evaluated 40 patients with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea and compared the results with those obtained from 40 people with high blood pressure and 40 healthy people.
"Obstructive sleep apnea patients might have cardiac abnormalities that often are undetected, but will improve with continuous positive air pressure," Lip said. "Patients also need to understand that obstructive sleep apnea is not a benign disorder, but that their risk of heart problems can be easily treated with continuous positive air pressure -- a device used to help get better sleep."
The severe obstructive sleep apnea patients had abnormal cardiac structure and performance changes typically associated with chronic high blood pressure, even though their blood pressure was only moderately elevated, Lip said.
"To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to provide a comprehensive assessment of left ventricular structural and functional parameters using advanced echocardiograms in otherwise healthy apnea patients," Lip said. "Our findings imply that obstructive sleep apnea could be crucial in the development of left ventricular diastolic dysfunction that can lead to heart failure and increased mortality if left untreated."
The findings were published in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure.