Sleep Apnea Can Double Risk of Hard-to-Treat Hypertension in African-Americans


A new study published in Circulation reveals that African-Americans with moderate or severe sleep apnea are twice as likely to have hard-to-control high blood pressure when their sleep apnea goes untreated. 

In the study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), the researchers followed 664 African-Americans with hypertension who were participants in the Jackson Heart Study, the largest investigation of causes of cardiovascular disease in African-Americans. The researchers classified sleep apnea as unaffected, mild, moderate, or severe based on the number of times a person either partially or completely stopped breathing during sleep. They tested participants for sleep apnea with a special device used overnight in the home. The tests revealed that more than 25% of the participants had moderate or severe sleep apnea and that the condition had gone undiagnosed in 94% of the cases. 

When the researchers tested blood pressure, they found that 48% of participants had resistant blood pressure that was uncontrolled even though they were taking 1 or 2 antihypertensive medications. Among patients on three or more medications,14% had resistant blood pressure. The researchers then compared types of sleep apnea to blood pressure control. Participants with moderate or severe sleep apnea were twice as likely to have resistant hypertension when compared to participants without sleep apnea.The results suggest that African-Americans with more severe forms of sleep apnea are at higher risk of having hard-to-treat hypertension.

“This report underscores the need for studies to determine whether screening groups at high risk for sleep apnea, such as African-Americans, would facilitate early medical intervention and reduce the risk or severity of heart disease,” said Michael Twery, PhD, director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research at NHLBI.


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