BOSTON, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Women with sleep apnea were more likely to have a heart attack than women without the condition, researchers found in a long-term study. The study found no link in men between sleep apnea and incidence of any cardiovascular event.
Men are twice as likely as women to have sleep apnea, however weight and age can increase the chances women will develop it, according to the Mayo Clinic.
"The finding that sleep apnea is associated with evidence of early heart injury and an elevation in long term risk of heart failure, coronary heart disease, enlargement of the heart muscle, and death in women highlights the importance of sleep apnea screening and treatment for women, a group who often are not routinely screened for sleep apnea," said Dr. Susan Redline, an associate clinical director in the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women's Hospital, in a press release.
Researchers compared the incidence of sleep apnea and cardiovascular complication in 752 men and 893 women over 15 years who participated in the Atherosclerosis Risk in the Communities and the Sleep Heart Health studies. The participants had a mean age of 62.5 at the beginning of the study and none had cardiovascular disease.
Twenty-three percent of men and 10 percent of women had moderate to severe undiagnosed sleep apnea when the study started. All participants in the study were followed for between 10 and 16 years for coronary disease, heart failure and any cause of death, and those who were alive at 15 years also had an echocardiography.
During the study period, 46 percent of men and 32 percent of women developed a cardiac condition, had an adverse cardiac event or died. Women with sleep apnea were 30 percent more likely to have a heart issue than women who did not have sleep apnea, the link between sleep apnea and heart problems was not seen in men.
The study is published in the journal Circulation.