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Short interrupted breaths in sleep apnea deadlier: Study

People with sleep apnea who have short interruptions in breathing while they sleep are at higher risk of death than those with longer interruptions, according to a new study. Sleep apnea occurs when throat muscles sporadically relax and block a patient’s airway during sleep. The condition is linked to a number of ailments, including high blood pressure and heart disease.

“This finding could help doctors better prevent long-term mortality associated with obstructive sleep apnea,” said Matthew Butler, assistant professor at OHSU School of Medicine in the US. For the study, the team examined 5,712 over a period of 11 years.

Sleep specialists currently use a measurement called the apnea hypopnea index, or the number of times a patient stops breathing per hour of sleep, to diagnose the severity of a patient’s sleep apnea. But the index, which is largely based on data from men, does not predict risk well in women.

This new study found that, in addition to how many breathing interruptions occur, how long each one lasts is also important. Patients with the shortest apneas were 31 per cent more likely to die during the study’s decade of follow-up with participants.

This held true for both male and female participants.

According to another report in The New York Times, sleep apnea is also associated with gout. A research was carried out with 15,979 students who suffered from apnea and 63,296 students, who did not. Their actions were observed for six years. Later it was deduced that 4.9 per cent of students who had apnea also developed gout. While 2.6 per cent among those who did not have sleep apnea developed gout.

However, the mechanism of the disease and its correlation with gout remains to be seen. The report states that the reduced supply of oxygen while sleeping in a person suffering from sleep apnea may lead to the gathering of uric acid crystals in the joints. This condition subsequently leads to pain of gout, even inflammation.