Sleep Apnea is a major risk factor for many types of cardiovascular disease, such as elevated blood pressure, stroke, coronary artery disease, and heart attack (myocardial infarction). However, other than pointing to risk factors, science hasn’t been able to do much in the way of making a direct correlation between measurements of sleep apnea and the actual occurrence of cardiovascular disease.

Now a new study suggests that’s because we’ve been going at it wrong all along.

Measuring Sleep Apnea

woman_sleepingWhen a person undergoes a sleep study, many variables are produced. This can be hard for a doctor to examine in order to make sense of the data and predict future outcomes. As with many medical treatments, doctors and dentists found themselves looking for a single number that compiles all the risks down to a single factor that is easy to understand. For many years, doctors have seized on the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) as the proper measure of the severity of sleep apnea. But because of the amount of data gathered during a sleep study, this is not the only number that might be used to gauge sleep apnea, nor, it turns out, the best.

What Is Apnea-Hypopnea Index?

Apnea-hypopnea index simply measures the number of times your breathing stopped or slowed down significantly while you slept. If you had between five and 15 events per hour, your sleep apnea is defined as mild. If it happened between 15 and 30 events per hour, your sleep apnea is defined as moderate. If you have more than 30 events per hour, your sleep apnea is defined as severe.

Other Variables Predict Heart Attacks

However, when researchers looked at the correlation between AHI and heart attack or other cardiovascular disease, they found that the correlation was not as good as might be hoped. Instead, other variables seemed more predictive.

The strongest correlation seemed to be between heart disease and time spent below 90% oxygen saturation. Other factors, such as leg movements, time spent sleeping, heart rate, and daytime sleepiness, didn’t correlate as well.

This led researchers to recommend that a more complex definition of sleep apnea be utilized.

Preventing Cardiovascular Disease

No matter how your sleep apnea is defined, preventing it depends on getting a successful oral appliance for sleep apnea treatment that you will actually use.

To learn what is the best sleep apnea treatment for your condition, please contact the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center in Omaha today.