We hope that it doesn’t take a stroke for people to wake up to the dangers of sleep apnea. But if you didn’t take your sleep apnea seriously before, hopefully a stroke convinces you that this is a critical health issue.
And the good news is that it’s not too late to get your sleep apnea treated after your stroke. Having sleep apnea after a stroke increases your risk of having a second stroke or dying, so treatment may be just as important as ever.
It’s always important to remember that not all science is equal in the strength of its findings, and this research has to be accepted as preliminary. It was presented at the American stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2018. That means that it hasn’t gone through the rigors of peer review, so it’s possible there are statistical and methodological errors that may undermine the significance of the findings.
However, many other aspects of the study look authoritative. The data comes from the Brain Attack Surveillance Study in Corpus Christi. It has a fairly large population of stroke survivors (842) who experienced strokes between 2010-2015, and they were followed for a significant period of time (median 584 days) after their stroke. The population had a median age of 65, was 53% male, 58% white, and 34% non-Hispanic white.
During the follow-up period, 10.7% of the population experienced another stroke, and 14.8% died. The likelihood of a second stroke or death increased 9% with each point of AHI increase over 10.
Diagnose, Treat, Live
This study is a critical reminder to everyone that sleep apnea remains a deadly threat even after a person has experienced a stroke. Doctors need to know that they should screen stroke survivors for sleep apnea. Stroke survivors need to know that they have to take their snoring and sleep apnea seriously if they want to reduce their risks. And loved ones need to push survivors to get treatment if they want to recover and live.
For many people, sleep apnea treatment after a stroke may mean CPAP, especially if their sleep apnea now includes central sleep apnea, which often results from cardiovascular problems like stroke.
But for many others, oral appliances remain a good treatment option, especially since recovery from stroke comes with many other challenges, so a comfortable, convenient sleep apnea treatment might be a better choice.