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Treating Sleep Apnea Might Ease High Blood Pressure, Too

In study, hypertension improved with sleep disorder treatment known as CPAP.

FRIDAY, Oct. 12 (HealthDay News) -- A type of treatment for the sleep disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea significantly lowered blood pressure in men with hypertension, researchers have found.

The new study included 221 men who were newly diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea and also had either high blood pressure (hypertension) or type 2 diabetes. Obstructive sleep apnea causes disrupted sleep and pauses in breathing during the night.

The men were prescribed continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy to treat their sleep apnea. CPAP uses mild air pressure to keep airways open while a patient sleeps.

Significant decreases in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings (the top and bottom numbers in the reading) were seen in the men at three to six months after starting CPAP therapy, and also when tested again at nine to 12 months after starting the treatment.

The results indicate that, for men with obstructive sleep apnea and high blood pressure, CPAP may not only be an effective way to treat their sleep disorder, but also their hypertension, the authors of the study reported in the Oct. 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

"All types of patients may benefit from this treatment, even those with other chronic medical conditions," principal investigator Dr. Bharati Prasad said in a news release from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. "It's important to now do a prospective study enrolling different types of patients with sleep apnea."

The study found an association between CPAP therapy and reductions in high blood pressure levels, but it didn't prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about sleep apnea.

(SOURCE: American Academy of Sleep Medicine, news release, Oct. 12, 2012)

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