“Over that follow-up period of probably 5 to 10 years, [studies have] found [untreated patients with OSA] to be at increased risk for all-cause mortality, cardiovascular specific mortality, and a host of cardiovascular events as well.”

Diagnosing obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in patients as early as possible is vitally important for ensuring that patients have the best long-term outcomes as possible. As Reena Mehra, MD, MS, director, Sleep Disorders Research Program, and professor of medicine, Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, points out, when it goes unaddressed it can cause a number of cardiovascular-related challenges, as well as have an impact on overall mortality.

This, she notes, is mainly due to the fact that OSA causes intermittent bouts of lowered oxygen, higher blood pressure, and increased systemic inflammation. Available literature such as the Sleep Heart Health study have suggested that diagnosing and treating patients with OSA as early on as possible is important due to the long-term positive impacts on sleepiness and blood pressure.

In an interview with NeurologyLive, Mehra highlighted this importance, as well as shared insight into a number of recent data that suggest that OSA is linked to other cardiovascular impacts, such as atrial fibrillation. She also detailed how, mechanistically, the sleep breathing disorder affects the thoracic cavity.