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Response to “Sleep Apnea 'Mask' Might Also Help the Heart”

by Anonymous S&D

Sleep apnea, defined as “cessation of breathing for 10 or more seconds during sleep,” is estimated to exist in almost one-fifth of all adults in United States (Dement, William C. The Stanford Sleep Book, 2002 and Storrs, Carina. “Sleep Apnea ‘Mask’ Might Also Help the Heart.” HealthDay.). Shortly after the discovery of sleep apnea 1965, the disorder was linked to cardiovascular disease (Dement, William C. 282). About 50 years later, studies confirming this relationship continue to be published in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Storrs reports that recent research in Spain has demonstrated that treatment of sleep apnea is “tied to” lower risk for high blood pressure (Storrs, Carina). The article reports that people who used continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP) more than four hours per night were found over the course of eleven years to have a 29% less likelihood of developing high blood pressure than individuals not receiving treatment.

These results are not at all that surprising, and the article acknowledges this fact by citing Harvard Medical School professor Dr. Stuart Quan. Dr. Stuart Quan states that the studies only reinforce his understanding that treating sleep apnea reduces the risk of high blood pressure: "… these studies do not affect my way of thinking about this" (Storrs, Carina). Five years ago, Dr. William C. Dement pointed out in “The Stanford Sleep Book,” published in 2006, that “Up to 70 percent of patients with high blood pressure suffer from obstructive sleep apnea" (Dement, William C. 356).

Interestingly, Storrs ends her article negating the establishment of causation: the article concludes, “While the study uncovered an association between CPAP use and reduced risk of developing high blood pressure, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship” (Storrs, Carina). A link between sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease has existed for almost half a century. While increased evidence in support of this relationship is valuable, groundbreaking insight may lie in the discovery of the underlying cause for the correlation.

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The Stanford Sleep Book

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Dr. Dement's pioneering textbook has been the core text for Sleep and Dreams since 1980, but it has just recently been made available to the wider public for the first time.

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