Cdn. Study Links Sleep Apnea To Heart Failure

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Cdn. Study Links Sleep Apnea To Heart Failure

( News Staff - March 27, 2003)

Canadian researchers say one of the country's leading killers could be linked to another disorder that happens during sleep. Connecting heart failure and sleep apnea for the first time the new study found that treating one ailment can cause dramatic improvements in the other.

For those diagnosed with heart failure, the future can seem bleak. It was a condition familiar to Noel Bates. Three years ago Bates' health was poor. Ultrasounds showed that, at times, his failing heart was barely pumping any blood through his body.

Faced with the limited options of a life on medication and a heart transplant, Bates jumped at the chance to participate in a clinical trial addressing what appeared to be an unrelated condition.

A group of Toronto researchers put Bates on a breathing machine to treat a seemingly unrelated condition: obstructive sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a disorder that stops breathing during sleep, often for moments at a time. The condition can cause sufferers to wake abruptly, with their hearts racing.

To his surprise, Bates discovered the treatment worked wonders.

Researcher Dr. Doug Bradley described the change in Bates’ health, "cardiac function improved dramatically ... and their blood pressure and their heart rates fell... those are all the things you want to see when you are treating a patient."

The study had confirmed a surprising relationship between sleep apnea and heart failure. By overstraining the heart, researchers concluded, sleep apnea was causing the heart to fail. Placing Bates on the breathing machine had eased the pressure on his heart, improving blood flow by as much as 35 per cent.

For Noel Bates, who is now returning to an active lifestyle he thought was lost, the discovery meant a new chance at life.

For the one in three patients with congestive heart failure who are diagnosed with sleep apnea, the study could prove similarly life-changing.

The study is published in the March 27 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine (

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