Caring Currents

Sleep Apnea May Trigger Nighttime Heart Attacks

Last updated: Jul 28, 2008

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Does your parent breathe easy at night? New research suggests a possible link between nighttime heart attacks and the breathing disorder sleep apnea .

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic studied the breathing patterns of 92 people admitted to the hospital after heart attacks. "For those who had heart attacks at night, the vast majority had undiagnosed sleep apnea," said cardiologist Virend Somers, the study's lead author. "So, perhaps sleep apnea is acting as a trigger for nighttime heart attacks."

How can you tell if someone has sleep apnea? The most common sign is loud snoring , often interrupted by pauses followed by choking or gasping. Some other signs of sleep apnea include:

  • Morning headaches
  • Memory or learning problems and not being able to concentrate
  • Feeling irritable, depressed, or having mood swings or personality changes
  • Urination at night
  • A dry throat when you wake up

If you think your parent might have sleep apnea, talk to his regular doctor. The good news is that sleep apnea can be treated , which, along with possibly reducing heart attack risk, may make your parent feel a whole lot better.

Image by Flickr user lewis chaplin used under the Creative Commons attribution license.