Sleep Apnea Could Double the Risk of Drug-Resistant Hypertension in African-Americans
When a patient is diagnosed with hypertension, commonly referred to as high blood pressure, their treatment typically consists of self-care and medications to help lower their blood pressure. If blood pressure isn’t reduced to normal range after taking medication for the condition, doctors must figure out why.
For African-American adults, the answer may lie in an undiagnosed case of sleep apnea.
Findings from a 2018 Study
A study led by Harvard University researchers found that people with moderate or severe sleep apnea are twice as likely to have drug-resistant hypertension. The link between sleep apnea and high blood pressure isn’t new, but this research is different from studies in the past.
Instead of using self-reported data, this Harvard-led study detected the presence of sleep apnea via sleep studies. Of the 664 African-American participants in this study, more than a quarter had moderate or severe sleep apnea. A shocking 94 percent of the participants with sleep apnea were not previously diagnosed or treated for the disorder. The association between high blood pressure and sleep apnea was most prevalent among those with hard-to-treat hypertension.
All the participants were adults with hypertension who were also participants in the Jackson Heart Study, the largest investigation of cardiovascular disease in African Americans. Nearly half of the study’s participants had uncontrolled high blood pressure, and approximately 14 percent had high blood pressure that wouldn’t respond to medications.
While this study has provided great insight, more research is needed to establish the cause-and-effect relationship between sleep apnea and drug-resistant hypertension. If untreated sleep apnea is the reason for drug-resistant hypertension, that means both diseases could potentially be improved with routine treatment for sleep apnea, such as the use of a CPAP machine.
For now, medical professionals can help their patients by looking at undiagnosed sleep apnea as a possible cause for drug-resistant hypertension.
Compared to white adults, black adults have a 90 percent higher chance of struggling with uncontrolled high blood pressure. There is no known cause for this, but researchers hope this study will inspire health care professionals to approach treatment and research differently in the future.