Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder characterized by episodes of airway obstruction during sleep which cause one to temporarily stop breathing. A common sleep disorder, it has been linked to several health problems including obesity, diabetes and high-blood pressure. Recent studies have also provided good evidence that sleep apnea is linked to strokes.
One recent German study showed that sleep apnea is associated with an increased risk of a symptomless but serious type of stroke known as a “silent stroke.” Led by Dr. Jessica Kepplinger of Dresden University Stroke Center at the University of Technology in Dresden, Germany, the study examined over 50 men and women, aged 44 to 75, who previously suffered from a stroke or a transient ischemic attack (a mini-stoke.) The study found that 91% of the participants intermittently stopped breathing during sleep. Furthermore, the more times a person stopped breathing during sleep, the greater the likelihood that they would experience a silent stroke.
The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine also studied the impact of obstructive sleep apnea on increased stroke risk in middle-aged and older adults. Their findings suggest that men with moderate to severe sleep apnea are almost three times more likely to have a stroke than men without sleep apnea. In women, the incidence of stroke was significant only with severe sleep apnea.
If you suffer from sleep apnea – whether it’s mild or severe – ensure the symptoms of a stroke are on your radar. The Heart and Stoke Foundation has identified the following symptoms as a sign of a stroke:
- Trouble Speaking
- Vision Problems
Also ensure that you’re getting the best treatment for your sleep apnea by consulting a sleep specialist. Adhering to sleep apnea treatments has proven to greatly reduce the risks of devastating side effects – from diabetes and obesity to heart disease and stroke.