I subscribe to a wonderful web service called NAPS - New Abstracts and Papers in Sleep. It provides on a weekly basis a listing of all the recently published material on sleep apnea. I commend it all the folks out there who want to keep up with research.
I received notice of an article published recently in the journal Respirology.
The title of the study "Treatment of obstructive sleep apnea in Samoa progressively reduces daytime blood pressure." I am aware of the study because one of the authors, Dr. Colin Sullivan, alluded to it when he spoke in March at an event organized by the National Sleep Foundation.
Quoting from the objective listed in abstract: "To determine the strenght of the OSA-BP relationship, this study examined the effect of CPAP in a cohort where severe OSA and under-treated hypertension coexist."
Here is the conclusion and the cool part: "Hypertensive OSA patients can exhibit large falls in BP with CPAP at 1 month, with further significant (emphasis added) reductions at 3 and 6 months. Overall, the fall in BP was proportional to the initial elevation of BP with many patients achieving normal BP at 6 months."
During his talk in March Dr. Sullivan indicated that previous studies of hypertensives using CPAP had only shown small decreasing in blood pressure. In this study, the researchers were able to take a population (Samoans) where hypertension is particularly well-treated and manage their severe sleep apnea by eliminating it using CPAP.
All previous studies had included only people with mild hypertension so the effect size (the difference treating the OSA makes) is very small and not particularly significant.
The take-away from this study and why I refer to it as a smoking gun, is treating sleep apnea can save lives by reducing blood pressure and decreasing the risk of heart disease.
Keep using your CPAP and if you are taking anti-hypertensives, keep taking them, but talk with the doctor that prescribes them to make sure you are taking the right amount.