Background: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a risk factor for cardiovascular death in men, but whether it is also a risk factor in women is unknown.
Objective: To investigate whether OSA is a risk factor for cardiovascular death in women and assess whether continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment is associated with a change in risk.
Design: Prospective, observational cohort study.
Setting: 2 sleep clinics in Spain.
Patients: All women consecutively referred for suspected OSA between 1998 and 2007.
Intervention: Every woman had a diagnostic sleep study. Women with an apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) less than 10 were the control group. Obstructive sleep apnea was diagnosed when the AHI was 10 or higher (classified as mild to moderate [AHI of 10 to 29] or severe [AHI ≥30]). Patients with OSA were classified as CPAP-treated (adherence ≥4 hours per day) or untreated (adherence <4 hours per day or not prescribed). Participants were followed until December 2009.
Measurements: The end point was cardiovascular death.
Results: 1116 women were studied (median follow-up, 72 months [interquartile range, 52 to 88 months]). The control group had a lower cardiovascular mortality rate (0.28 per 100 person-years [95% CI, 0.10 to 0.91]) than the untreated groups with mild to moderate OSA (0.94 per 100 person-years [CI, 0.10 to 2.40]; P = 0.034) or severe OSA (3.71 per 100 person-years [CI, 0.09 to 7.50]; P < 0.001). Compared with the control group, the fully adjusted hazard ratios for cardiovascular mortality were 3.50 (CI, 1.23 to 9.98) for the untreated, severe OSA group; 0.55 (CI, 0.17 to 1.74) for the CPAP-treated, severe OSA group; 1.60 (CI, 0.52 to 4.90) for the untreated, mild to moderate OSA group; and 0.19 (CI, 0.02 to 1.67) for the CPAP-treated, mild to moderate OSA group.
Limitation: The study was observational and not randomized, and OSA was diagnosed by 2 different methods.
Conclusion: Severe OSA is associated with cardiovascular death in women, and adequate CPAP treatment may reduce this risk.
Primary funding source: None.