Background and purpose: Sleep apnea is a modifiable independent stroke risk factor and is associated with poor stroke outcomes. Mexican Americans have a higher incidence of stroke than non-Hispanic whites. In a biethnic community, we sought to determine the frequency of screening, testing, and treatment of sleep apnea among stroke survivors and to compare self-perceived risk of sleep apnea with actual risk.
Methods: A survey was mailed to ischemic stroke survivors in the Brain Attack Surveillance in Corpus Christi (BASIC) project. The survey included the validated sleep apnea screening tool, the Berlin questionnaire, and queried the frequency of sleep apnea screening by symptoms, formal sleep testing, and treatment. Self-perceived risk and actual high risk of sleep apnea were compared using McNemar's test.
Results: Of the 193 respondents (49% response rate), 54% were Mexican American. Forty-eight percent of respondents had a high risk of sleep apnea based on the Berlin questionnaire, whereas only 19% thought they were likely to have sleep apnea (P<0.01). There was no difference in the proportion of respondents at high risk of sleep apnea between Mexican Americans and non-Hispanic whites (48% versus 51%, P=0.73). Less than 20% of respondents had undergone sleep apnea screening, testing, or treatment.
Conclusions: Stroke survivors perceive their risk of sleep apnea to be lower than their actual risk. Despite a significant proportion of both Mexican American and non-Hispanic white stroke survivors at high risk of sleep apnea, few undergo symptom screening, testing, or treatment. Both stroke survivors and physicians may benefit from educational interventions.