PAP Helps Blood Pressure Blues

Obstructive sleep apnea treatment may reduce blood pressure in men

(RxWiki News) When snoring indicates someone has sleep apnea, it's more than annoying. It can be harmful to your health — especially if you already have high blood pressure.

A recent study found treating obstructive sleep apnea can improve men's blood pressure if they already have hypertension.

"Treat your sleep apnea."

The study, led by Bharati Prasad, MD, MS, of the Sleep and Allergy section of the Department of Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago, looked at whether treating sleep apnea helped with high blood pressure.

The researchers tracked 221 veterans who already had high blood pressure or else type 2 diabetes and had just been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea.

The men were all prescribed to use positive airway pressure treatment for their sleep apnea.

There are different types of positive airway pressure (PAP), such as continuous (CPAP), Auto and BiLevel (BiPAP), but all use a mask to deliver air into a person's nostrils as they sleep.

The researchers looked at the blood pressure readings and the men's glycemic control twice after they started treating: once at 3-6 months after treatment and once 9-12 months after treatment.

Glycemic control refers to how well they are managing their diabetes and/or blood sugar levels. It was assessed by measuring their fasting glucose (blood sugar) levels and their hemoglobinA1C levels.

The men's blood pressure and glycemic measurements after treatment were compared to their blood pressure and glycemic health before treatment began.

They found the men's blood pressure did drop some after treatment. Their systolic blood pressure (top number; when the heart is pumping) decreased approximately 7 points, and their diastolic blood pressure (bottom number; when the heart is relaxing and filling with blood) decreased approximately 3 to 4 points on average.

There did not appear to be a difference in the men's glycemic control following treatment for obstructive sleep apnea.

The researchers concluded that treatment for sleep apnea can especially help men who already have high blood pressure.

However, anyone who has sleep apnea should receive treatment, according to William Kohler, MD, the director of Florida Sleep Medicine in Spring Hill, Florida.

"The apnea itself causes increased risk for hypertension, congestive heart failure, cardiac arrest, stroke, endothelial function, cardiac arrhythmias," Dr. Kohler said. "Metabolically, apnea contributes to insulin resistance and elevated cholesterol, and neurocognitively, there is impaired memory and increased risk for dementia and depression," he said.

The tiredness from sleep apnea can also make it harder to concentrate, Dr. Kohler said.

"It's extremely important to make the proper diagnosis and to effectively treat it," he said.

The primary way to treat sleep apnea is with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) using a CPAP machine.

CPAP machines require a prescription and can cost anywhere from $150 to over $5,500, though most insurance plans will cover some or all of the expense. CPAP masks range from $30 to $200.

The study was published October 15 in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

Review Date: 
October 25, 2012