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Sleep Disorder Linked to Heart Failure Patient Deaths

Heart failure patients with untreated sleep apnea are more likely to die than those without this sleep disorder, says a study//.

The study followed 164 patients with heart failure for more than seven years, and found that those with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) had double the death rate of those patients who did not have sleep apnea. Of the 37 patients with untreated OSA, the death rate was 24% in contrast to 12% for the 113 patients with no sleep apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea is common in patients with heart failure, and contributes to increased blood pressure, heart rate and other cardiac disturbances. This is the first time that the effect of obstructive sleep apnea on mortality rates of heart failure patients has been studied and reported.

“The vast majority of heart failure patients across North America are not being assessed for the diagnosis of sleep apnea and, as a result, are not being treated for it. Our data says that many of these patients need to be treated for this disorder and that this will have a significant impact on their survival,” said Dr. Douglas Bradley, Head of the Sleep Research Laboratories at Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, and Mount Sinai Hospital, and Director of the University of Toronto Center for Sleep Medicine and Circadian Biology.

More than 500,000 Canadians are treated for heart failure every year, with an additional 50,000 new cases every year. In the most severely affected, the one-year death rate can be as high as 40%, and it is the leading cause of hospital admission for individuals above the age of 65. Although drug therapy has reduced death rates in the last five to 10 years, and participation in a cardiac rehabilitation program can improve a patient’s quality of life by increasing stamina and decreasing shortness of breath, heart transplantation is the only long-term treatment for patients suffering from end-stage heart failure. However, because
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