New research appears in the June 1 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, a publication of the American Thoracic Society, which more closely describes the link between Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and cardiovascular disease.
It appears that people suffering from sleep apnea have a much higher count of dead cells in their blood than the rest of us. Specifically, many more cells in the lining (endothelium) have died and are circulating in the blood; these "apoptotic" cells now appear to be one possible cause of a significant risk that sleep apnea patients have for cardiovascular problems.
Lead researcher Ali El Sohl, M.D., M.P.H., said the study was done “to explain why patients with OSA had a higher risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.” He added that “the increased levels of circulating apoptotic endothelial cells would mean less production of nitric oxide that is crucial to artery vasodilatation. The less nitric oxide, the higher potentially is the risk of hypertension and acute heart attack. CPAP treatment would likely restore the physiologic function of the lining of the blood vessels.”
CPAP is the "continuous positive airway pressure" device that you may have seen being used by those with sleep apnea. While many have difficulty adjusting to this device at bedtime, others say that it makes a huge difference in the quality of their sleep. Now, it appears to have a very significant cardio benefit as well.