Obstructive Sleep Apnea Increases Risk Of Getting Atherosclerosis And Heart Disease - New Study

A study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) indicates that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is associated with higher amounts of ‘bad’ plaque in coronary arteries.

OSA is generally associated with obesity and is characterized by snoring and long pauses in breathing (10 seconds or more) during sleep. It is a condition that affects millions of Americans, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

According to professor of radiology and medicine and director of cardiovascular imaging at the Medical University of South Carolina U. Joseph Schoepf, MD, “Our study reveals that individuals with obstructive sleep apnea are prone to developing an aggressive form of atherosclerosis that puts them at risk for impaired blood flow and cardiovascular events.”

The study compared 49 obese patients with OSA to 46 obese patients without OSA. All participants underwent coronary CT angiography (cCTA), allowing researchers to see detailed pictures of plaque buildup and narrowing in the vessels.

Dr. Schoepf went on to state that “compared to the non-OSA group, the patients with OSA had a significantly higher prevalence of non-calcified and mixed plaque.”

Non-calcified plaque can lead to a heart attack or other cardiovascular event by way of rupturing or development of blood clots.

“Coronary CT angiography is an effective way to noninvasively diagnose non-calcified and mixed plaque,” Dr. Schoepf said. “With technological advancements that are lowering the radiation dose required for cCTA, this exam could become a screening tool for obese individuals at increased risk for cardiovascular disease.”

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