WEDNESDAY, Oct. 7, 2020 — Continuous positive airway pressure treatment, commonly known as CPAP, can lower heart disease risk in people with prediabetes, according to a new study.
In prediabetes, blood sugar levels are above normal but not high enough to be considered diabetes. CPAP is used to treat obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. A CPAP machine uses a mask to deliver steady air pressure into a person’s airway.
This new study found that, among people with prediabetes and sleep apnea, those who used CPAP for two weeks saw their resting heart rate fall by four to five beats per minute, compared to those who didn’t use CPAP.
With optimal CPAP treatment, heart rates were not only lower at night but also during the day, according to the report published Oct. 1 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
“That’s significant,” said study author Dr. Esra Tasali, director of sleep research at University of Chicago Medicine.
Even a drop of one beat per minute in resting heart rate can lower the future risk of heart disease and death, she noted in a university news release.
“A four- to five-beat-per-minute drop in heart rate that we observed is comparable to what you would get from regular exercise,” Tasali said. “Our breakthrough finding is the carryover of the lowered resting heart rate into the daytime and the cardiovascular benefit of that.”
About one billion people worldwide have obstructive sleep apnea, and more than 60% of them have prediabetes or diabetes. About 80% of people with apnea are undiagnosed, the researchers noted.
The findings are especially timely because people with diabetes or heart problems are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, the study authors pointed out.
“Any way we can improve cardiovascular health is more important than ever these days,” Tasali said.
The findings show the need for people who have prediabetes, diabetes or sleeping problems to be screened for sleep apnea, said study author Dr. Sushmita Pamidi, a sleep physician-scientist at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
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