SINGAPORE - Heart failure patients who also suffer from sleep apnoea are far more likely to suffer from major heart attacks and stroke than patients with no sleep problems.
A study by a team from the National University Heart Centre (NUHC), presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2014 in Barcelona yesterday, showed that people with sleep apnoea have seven times the risk compared with other heart failure patients.
Sleep apnoea occurs when a person's breathing is interrupted for between 10 seconds and several minutes during sleep. This is caused by a narrowing of the throat. People with this condition could have as many as 30 such breathing interruptions an hour.
Those with sleep apnoea are already known to be prone to heart diseases, said Ronald Lee, the senior member of the NUHC research team.
What the study, which followed 68 patients over two years, adds is the knowledge, that after they have had heart failure, they continue to be at far higher risk of a heart attack or stroke compared with other heart failure patients.
The poster presented yesterday morning is one of 14 poster presentations by doctors from the NUHC accepted at the five-day congress, considered the most important meeting on heart matters in the world.
A total of 3,331 posters - out of nearly 10,000 submitted - were picked by over 1,500 top doctors, to be presented at this year's congress, which has an attendance of 30,000 delegates from around the world.
Tan Huay Cheem, director of the NUHC, said: "We're doing very well, punching above our weight, with 14 posters from one centre in a small country."
He said NUHC's posters are "not blockbusters" but they "do add to the literature and knowledge of the subject".
On the sleep apnoea study, Associate Professor Tan said: "We now refer all our heart failure patients with sleep apnoea to our respiratory colleagues to fit them with oxygen masks when they sleep."
The centre is doing a follow-up study on the effect of sleep apnoea on patients who have had stents inserted, to find out if the condition increases their need for a second procedure.
The big buzz coming from the congress this year is the heart failure drug from Novartis that has had excellent results, doubling the benefits from existing medication. It is the first successful heart failure drug to emerge in years.
The Swiss giant plans to file for commercial sale of the drug by the end of this year in the United States, by early next year in Europe, and soon after that in Singapore.
This article by The Straits Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.