Largest global study investigating sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease
The Sleep Apnea cardioVascular Endpoints (SAVE) study is the largest sleep study ever undertaken. The aim of the study was to answer the question, “Does treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) with Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes in people with OSA?”
OSA occurs when the airway at the back of the mouth becomes partly or completely blocked repeatedly during sleep. Breathing is reduced or may stop briefly resulting in falling oxygen levels and interrupted sleep. These episodes may happen many times during the night. As well as raising the risk of having a heart attack or stroke, OSA causes a whole host of other problems such as lethargy(or low energy), drowsiness, daytime napping and poor thinking, all of which can impact on work performance and social activities. Relationships also suffer from excessive snoring.
The SAVE study has now concluded and it found that CPAP does not reduce the risk of recurrent strokes and heart attacks in people with cardiovascular disease. However, the study clearly showed that CPAP is able to improve quality of life, mood and daily functioning of patients. The results of the study, which involved over 2,700 participants from seven countries, who were followed up for several years, were announced on August 28th 2016 at the European Society of Cardiology Conference, one of the largest medical conferences in the world, and published simultaneously in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.
Patient sleeping with a CPAP mask
Researchers from Flinders University and The George Institute for Global Health are particularly encouraged by the results, which will have a major impact on the management of patients worldwide.
SAVE participants who were able to use the CPAP machine for a minimum of 3 hours a night reported significant improvements in their wellbeing from reduced snoring and improved mood, quality of life, and with less time being taken off work due to sickness. Thus, CPAP clearly was able to improve the lives of people with cardiovascular disease who suffer with sleep disordered breathing.
More research is still needed on how to reduce the significant risks of suffering a heart attack or stroke for those who suffer from sleep apnea.