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Increased Stroke Risk Seen From Sleep Apnea

Posted on May 13, 2010

More than 12 million American adults are believed to have sleep apnea, which makes it as common as adult diabetes. But unlike, diabetes, many adults with the condition are undiagnosed and go untreated for years, despite that it can cause high blood pressure, memory problems, weight gain, impotency and headaches. Now researchers are also linking sleep apnea to a two-fold increased risk of stroke in men. Endovascular neurosurgeon and stroke expert, Demetrius Lopes, MD at Rush University Medical Center, urge medical professionals and patients alike to take note of the risk factors for sleep apnea and to seek timely treatment.

Obstructive sleep apnea, the most common form of the condition, is caused by an intermittent narrowing or blockage of the upper airway which disrupts sleep and breathing. Risk factors for sleep apnea include being a male over the age of forty and carrying excess weight.

Obstructive sleep apnea is associated with an increased risk of stroke in middle-aged and older adults, especially men, according to new results from a landmark study supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health. The study was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Researchers from the Sleep Heart Health Study (SHHS) reported that the risk of stroke appears in men with mild sleep apnea and rises with the severity of sleep apnea. Even men with moderate to severe sleep apnea were nearly three times more likely to have a stroke than men without sleep apnea or with mild sleep apnea.

Stroke specialists, like Dr. Lopes in Chicago, always advocate for preventive measures when it comes to treating stroke. However, given that stroke is the second leading cause of death worldwide, it is also prudent for patients with stroke risk factors to know the signs and symptoms of stroke.

General symptoms of a stroke include:
Sudden numbness, paralysis, or weakness in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
New problems with walking or balance.
Sudden vision changes.
Drooling or slurred speech.
New problems speaking or understanding simple statements, or feeling confused.
A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.

If you or a loved one experiences any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately. Getting to a hospital experienced in treating stroke, like Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, may be the difference between life and death.

If you have any questions regarding sleep apnea and its impact on stroke risk, please respond below or email Dr. Lopes at info@ChicagoStrokeMD.com.