RELEASE UNTIL WEDNESDAY, MARCH 6, 2024, 4:00 PM ET, EMBARGOED

Newswise – MINNEAPOLIS — The stroke risk associated with sleep apnea may be different for blacks and whites, according to a study published in the March 6, 2024 online edition of neurology®the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The study found that white people diagnosed with sleep apnea, whether or not they used a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, had an increased risk of stroke. White people who were at high risk of sleep apnea but were not diagnosed with the condition also had an increased risk of stroke. The study found no increased risk of stroke among black people who met the same criteria.

The study also found that black people who used CPAP machines had a lower risk of stroke compared to black people with sleep apnea who did not use the machines.

“These results were not what we expected because black people have been shown to have a higher risk of stroke and to have more sleep apnea than white people,” said study author Rebecca Robbins, MMSc, ​​PhD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “Further research is needed to understand these differences. Because blacks have been shown to have more severe sleep apnea than whites and to take longer to evaluate and treat than whites, it is possible that the use of a CPAP machine may provide greater benefit in reducing the risk of stroke for blacks.”

Robbins said it’s also possible that black people have been shown to be more affected by other diseases in addition to sleep apnea, that these diseases may increase the risk of stroke and reduce the impact of sleep apnea on stroke risk.

The study involved 22,192 people with an average age of 64 years; 38% were black. None of the participants had a history of stroke at the start of the study. Your risk of sleep apnea was assessed using questions about snoring, daytime sleepiness, blood pressure and weight. They also reported whether they had been diagnosed with sleep apnea and used a CPAP machine. A total of 2,412 people, or 10.9%, had been diagnosed with sleep apnea at the start of the study.

The participants were then followed for an average of 12 years. During this period, 969 people, or 4.4%, suffered a stroke.

There were 90 strokes among the 1,475 white people diagnosed with sleep apnea and 42 strokes among the 937 black people with sleep apnea. When researchers adjusted for other factors that might influence stroke risk, such as age, diabetes and alcohol consumption, they found that white people had a 33% higher risk of stroke than people without sleep apnea and that black people had an increased risk of stroke.

White people who were at high risk of sleep apnea were 22% more likely to have a stroke than people at low risk for the condition.

Among 701 Black people with sleep apnea and information about whether or not they used a CPAP, CPAP use was associated with a 64% lower risk of stroke than among people with sleep apnea who did not use a device. There was no significant reduction in stroke risk from CPAP use among the 1,160 white people.

“These results were also surprising,” said study author Virginia J. Howard, PhD, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “One possible explanation for these results is that we did not have information on CPAP adherence. Research shows that those who use their CPAP machine improperly are at higher risk of strokes and other problems. We also had no information about the severity of sleep apnea. It is possible that those who used a CPAP machine had a more severe case and were further along the path to stroke when diagnosed.”

The study found no increased risk of stroke in people who snored but had no other sleep apnea symptoms.

The study was supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the National Institute on Aging.

Learn more about stroke at BrainandLife.org, home of the American Academy of Neurology’s free patient and care magazine focused on the intersection of neurological diseases and brain health. Follow Brain & Life® At Facebook, Twitter And Instagram.

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The American Academy of Neurology is the world’s largest association of neurologists and neuroscientists with over 40,000 members. The AAN is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurological care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of brain and nervous system disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, concussion, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy.

For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit AAN.com or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn And Youtube.

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