Posted by Elizabeth Stewart - email
(WFLX) - For years, Stephen Allen's wife complained about his snoring. "I would find myself gasping for breath waking up at night and my wife would say 'Stephen, Stephen, are you OK?'."
"Finally, he went to the doctor and was observed when he was sleeping." The 60-year-old was diagnosed with something called sleep apnea, where the patient stops breathing while they sleep.
"The whole body suffers damage because of the lack of oxygen. The airways collapse and oxygen can't reach the lungs. The brain forces the patient awake and breathing starts up."
Now, a new study shows a link between severe sleep apnea and heart disease in middle age and older men. Those 40 to 70 years old had a 68 percent higher risk of developing heart problems, especially heart failure and coronary heart disease.
"Twenty-five percent of men and nine percent of women suffer from sleep apnea, but the cardiac connection appears to only affect men."
Researchers did not find the same links to heart problems in women. "2,540 female hormones protect the development of cardiovascular disease in women so they may delay the onset of heart disease that only lasts until menopause. Afterwards, women with sleep apnea may face similar risks to men."
Stephen Allen is being treated with a CPAP machine, a device which forces air into his body while he sleeps. It also reduces the stress on his heart, important for Allen who already has a history of heart problems.