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Oct 26, 2011

Less Salt Intake Means Healthier Sleep for Heart Failure Patients

Increased sodium intake increases risk for sleep apnea in heart failure patients.

Sleep apnea is a common disorder that occurs when breathing is shallow or repeatedly pauses during sleep. Breathing pauses can be short, lasting a few seconds, or can persist for as long as a few minutes. As a result, sleep apnea reduces the amount of oxygen getting to the rest of the body, which can cause or worsen heart failure — a condition that occurs when the heart can no longer pump enough blood to the rest of the body, reducing oxygen supply. Although the exact relationship between sleep apnea and heart failure remains unclear, continued research has helped clarify risk factors for sleep apnea among heart failure patients.

In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology discovered a link between increased sodium intake in heart failure patients and severity of sleep apnea. In this study, researchers followed 54 heart failure patients, recording their dietary habits and monitoring their breathing during sleep using a tool known as polysomnography. They found that heart failure patients with increased sodium intake were significantly more likely to have severe sleep apnea (frequent pauses in breathing per hour of sleep). As many other studies have also demonstrated, heart failure patients with sleep apnea were more likely to be male and have greater fluid, potassium, protein and total calorie intake than heart failure patients without sleep apnea — regardless of BMI.

These findings help provide information regarding the prevention of sleep apnea in heart failure patients — a condition that can not only increase likelihood of cardiovascular complications, but also decrease quality of life in heart failure patients. While reduced sodium intake is already recommended for heart failure patients, study findings stress the importance of adhering to sodium guidelines, not only to help treat heart failure and minimize symptoms, but potentially to help reduce risk for sleep apnea.
Read this Article in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What causes sleep apnea?
  • Sleep apnea is most commonly caused by excessive relaxation of the throat muscles, called obstructive sleep apnea. However, sleep apnea can also be caused by the malfunction of brain signals during sleep, known as central sleep apnea, or a combination of the two, called complex sleep apnea.
  • How does sleep apnea effect cardiovascular risk and heart failure?

  • Frequent drops in oxygen levels and reduced sleep quality can put stress on the body — including the heart. This extra stress may not only increase risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and arrhythmias, but also cause or worsen heart failure.

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