Would CPAP therapy reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks for people with sleep apnea?

A woman using cpap machine to stop choking and snoring from obstructive sleep apnea with bokeh and morning light background


Data access has been approved for a research project which will use linked administrative data to investigate whether obstructive sleep apnea is an independent risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease.

The research team is led by Dr Najib Ayas, a Professor at the University of British Columbia and Head of Critical Care at St Paul’s Hospital, Vancouver. The project is funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR).

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a major health problem affecting over 1,000,000 Canadians and is the cause of significant health-care costs, morbidity and mortality. Patients with OSA have an increased risk of incident cardiovascular disease (CVD) including strokes and heart attacks.

“Accumulating evidence suggests that continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy improves a variety of physiological and biochemical risk markers including blood pressure and incident hypertension,” says the project’s Research Coordinator, Nurit Fox. “However, many of the studies to date are relatively small and lack details of the cardiovascular outcomes of interest to us. This study is larger in scale and scope, and uses more robust databases to better understand the relationships between OSA and cardiovascular disease.”

CPAP compliance among people with OSA is currently low, with usage estimates ranging from 50% to 65%. If there was evidence that CPAP treatment offered protection against cardiovascular disease, there would be a greater incentive for patients to use CPAP, and a resultant improvement in public health and reduction in health-care costs.

Population Data BC will link the Sleep Apnea (OSA) database with data from Cardiac Services BC, the BC Ministry of Health Discharge Abstract Database, and BC Vital Statistics Agency deaths for the project.