A heart rhythm disturbance that affects more than 2 million Americans is twice as likely to recur in patients with untreated sleep apnea, according to a Mayo Clinic study published in the May 27 edition of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition that causes people to repeatedly stop breathing during sleep.
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common sustained heart arrhythmia and can have serious consequences. When the upper chambers of the heart quiver rapidly and erratically -- as many as 400 times per minute -- blood does not move efficiently through the heart. This pooling blood is more likely to clot, leading to heart attacks or strokes. AF also can lead to heart failure by causing the hearts main pumping chambers, the ventricles, to contract rapidly -- often more than 100 beats per minute.
AF treatment involves using electrified paddles on the chest to shock the heart back into the proper rhythm, a procedure called cardioversion. Medications can help maintain normal rhythms, but lasting results are difficult to achieve; more than half of patients fall back into AF within one year.
Lee Aase | EurekAlert!
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