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Kristin Hayes, R.N.

Sleep Apnea May Result in a Healthier Heart for Some

By January 24, 2013

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Given all the negative effects on your health of untreated sleep apnea a new study has floored health professionals. The study is from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and shows that individuals with a history of a heart attack (myocardial infarction) may actually benefit from mild to moderate untreated sleep apnea.

According to researchers, patients in the study who suffered from sleep apnea had higher blood levels of endothelial progenitor cells (EPC's). Endothelial progenitor cells initiate the growth of new blood vessels and work to repair a heart that has been injured during a heart attack. Individuals with sleep apnea also had higher levels of other proteins which promote the growth of new blood vessels.  Researchers do not elaborate on why this is, but it makes sense that the body would try to increase blood flow (and subsequent oxygen delivery) in response to the intermittent deprivation of oxygen to vital organs which is experienced by people with sleep apnea.

While more research is necessary, the results of this study will help to determine if inducing sleep apnea in patients after a heart attack might speed recovery. Ironically, a side effect of long term untreated sleep apnea is left sided heart failure, meaning that the cause of heart problems in the first place might also prove to be a viable treatment. You can read more about this study in Newswise.

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