An alternative method to a good night’s sleep and reduce heart disease in sleep apnea patients has finally been found by scientists…without relying on CPAP therapy used to improve sleep quality and reduce daytime fatigue.
According to a recent study conducted by researchers at Columbia University, statins – cholesterol-lowering medications – could potentially help to reduce the risk of heart disease in individuals with obstructive sleep apnea, regardless of whether they use CPAP machines at night or not.
The study, which has been published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society, sheds new light on the potential benefits of statins in managing this common sleep disorder.
While continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy has long been considered a viable solution for improving sleep quality and reducing daytime fatigue in people with obstructive sleep apnea, recent clinical trials have cast doubts on its effectiveness in improving heart health. Despite the initial hopes of physicians, the latest findings have revealed that CPAP therapy may not provide the desired cardiovascular benefits, thus underscoring the need for alternative approaches to treating this condition.
The need for alternative methods to tackle heart disease in sleep apnea patients has become more pressing than ever before. This is because the condition has been shown to triple the risk of serious cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks and strokes. As such, there is an urgent need for new approaches that can help mitigate this risk and improve the overall health outcomes for those with sleep apnea.
The study led by Dr. Sanja Jelic, an associate professor of medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, suggests that statins, a class of cholesterol-lowering drugs, could be an effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea.
The study involved 87 patients with newly diagnosed obstructive sleep apnea who were undergoing CPAP therapy. The patients were divided into two groups and randomly assigned to either receive statin treatment or a placebo.
The results of the study showed that statins were effective in protecting blood vessels from inflammatory changes that can be dangerous for individuals with obstructive sleep apnea, while CPAP therapy did not have the same effect.
In the study, researchers focused their attention on the CD59 protein, which is responsible for regulating inflammation within the blood vessels. Previous research conducted by Jelic’s team had already established that CD59 is more stable when cholesterol levels are low, and that it protects cells against the inflammatory effects of complement, a group of proteins that promote inflammation. During the study, participants who underwent cholesterol-lowering statin therapy for four weeks showed stabilized CD59 levels, while those who received only CPAP therapy did not show such improvements.
“The effect we found with statins is important,” adds Jelic. “Inflammation in the blood vessels is a key step in progression of cardiovascular disease, so anything that we can do to stabilize CD59 in these patients is likely to be beneficial for heart health.”
In a surprising turn of events, researchers also discovered that CPAP therapy can actually increase levels of angiopoietin-2, a protein that is known to cause inflammation and heart disease. Although high levels of angiopoietin-2 are often observed in patients who require mechanical ventilation, this had never been documented in individuals who use CPAP therapy until now. The study also found that statins were effective in reducing angiopoietin-2 levels in patients with obstructive sleep apnea.
“We still believe CPAP is very useful, since it improves sleep and reduces daytime fatigue,” adds Jelic. “But CPAP also seems to have negative effects on the cardiovascular system. We need to investigate whether we should use more conservative airway pressures or other less-utilized treatments like oral appliances to treat patients with obstructive sleep apnea.”
According to Dr. Jelic, in order to determine the effectiveness of statins in preventing heart disease among sleep apnea patients, clinical trials need to be conducted. The aim of these trials would be to establish whether the use of statins can result in a long-term reduction of heart attacks and strokes in this particular patient population. Currently, statins are only prescribed to a small percentage of patients, ranging from 8% to 13%, who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.
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