Sleep disorder a factor in heart failure

02/11/2003 - News

Sleep disorder a factor in heart failure

By: Susan Aldridge, medical journalist, PhD


Over half of a group of patients at risk of heart failure also had an interruption of breathing during sleep.

It's already known that sleep apnea, where someone stops breathing during sleep, is linked to heart problems. A new study from the Mayo Clinic now sheds new light on this connection.

The researchers, working with colleagues in Italy, looked at sleep patterns in a group of 47 patients who had impaired heart pumping function. They had not yet progressed to heart failure, but were at high risk. The study showed that 55 per cent of the group had central sleep apnea - a condition where the body's breathing reflex is interrupted periodically and blocks chest and abdomen movement. And five per cent had the more well-known condition of obstructive sleep apnea, where the airway collapses - usually because of lack of tone at the back of the throat.

Although it's known that those with heart failure often have sleep apnea too, this study suggests that the sleep problem might even be causal. Evidently it may be possible to lower the risk of heart failure by treating sleep problems. But there is still a need for an effective way of tackling central sleep apnea. However, obstructive sleep apnea can be helped by a device that pumps air into the lungs during sleep, overcoming any obstruction.


Circulation February 2003

Created on: 02/11/2003
Reviewed on: 02/11/2003

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