Older men with poor sleep at higher risk of heart problems: Study

A new study has found older men who experience extended episodes of interrupted breathing while sleeping have a higher risk of heart problems. Source: Getty (stock image used)

A new study has revealed just how dangerous interrupted sleep can be for older men.

New research published in the European Heart Journal revealed that older men who experience extended episodes of interrupted breathing while asleep have a higher risk of heart problems. The study analysed patterns of low blood oxygenation during sleep and the link to heart-related deaths in 2,840 men aged in their 70s and early 80s.

According to researchers, understanding underlying the causes of low oxygen saturation during sleep is vital and it could assist in preventing deaths.

“The study showed that when the men had 12 or more minutes of sleep at low oxygen saturation below 90 per cent this increased the risk of heart-related death by 59 per cent,” study author Mathias Baumert said in a statement.

“Approximately 20 per cent of the time that oxygen saturation was below 90 per cent could not be attributed to episodic desaturations traditionally related to sleep-disordered breathing.”

The study found for the first time that poor blood oxygenation could not be attributed to sleep apnoea alone and that it could be caused by other problems. Researchers believe screening for and treatment of risk factors beyond sleep-disordered breathing and obesity could help reduce nocturnal hypoxia in people who regularly experience long periods of time during the evening where oxygen saturation falls below 90 per cent.

“Simple and affordable tools for overnight measurement of hypoxia levels are readily available,” Baumert added. “Tests can be performed at home or in aged care facilities as part of a standard health check program.”

It’s the second study this week that has linked a lack of sleep to the increased risk of cardiovascular disease. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found sleeping less than six hours a night increases the risk of developing clogged arteries. Researchers found that a lack of sleep or poor quality of sleep increases the risk of atherosclerosis – which is a build-up of plaque in the arteries.

Read more: Lack of sleep could be clogging your arteries: Study

Sleeping less than six hours a night was associated with a 27 per cent increase in the risk of atherosclerosis, with researchers explaining that in addition to physical activity, diet and pharmaceuticals being used to treat cardiovascular disease, sleep is also important.

Meanwhile, Tim Given, Clinical Applications Specialist at ResMed, previously told Starts at 60 that sleep is important because the body does so much when a person is not awake such as producing hormones and insulin.

“Sleep is very very important. Our cardiovascular system gets a big rest, so our heart gets a rest, our blood pressure drops, it takes pressure off the system and it gives our body time to rest and restore itself,” he explained. “And also our brain is quite active so it’s really important for the consolidation of memories.”

Disturbed sleeping patterns or problems with sleep should always be discussed with a GP to ensure it isn’t being caused by another health problem.

Read more: The causes, symptoms and cures of sleep apnoea

What are your thoughts on this study? Have you been impacted by bad sleep? What helps you rest well each night?

Important information: The information provided on this website is of a general nature and information purposes only. It does not take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. It is not personalised health advice and must not be relied upon as such. Before making any decisions about your health or changes to medication, diet and exercise routines you should determine whether the information is appropriate in terms of your particular circumstances and seek advice from a medical professional.

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