Did you know approximately 5.7 million Americans suffer from heart failure every year? This is a staggering number. If you are a patient dealing with this condition, you might want to also monitor your sleep. Sleep apnea can harshly affect your heart. However, there is positive news. A new study suggests that treatment of sleep apnea may help improve progress in patients with heart failure.

Treating Both Sleep Apnea and Heart Failure

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart grows weaker. When this happens, the heart cannot pump enough blood that the body needs in order to function properly. This may cause fatigue, shortness of breath and fluid build-up in several parts of the body.

Most patients with heart failure are constantly in and out of hospitals. According to research recently published in the American Journal of Cardiology, treatment of sleep apnea may help patients with the condition.

Researchers tested 70 patients with both sleep apnea and heart failure. Of those 70 patients, 37 actively used a treatment that helps breathing, called Positive Airway Pressure (PAP) Therapy. The other 34 patients where non-compliant—and did not use the PAP ventilation machine.

A common problem with patients who undergo PAP therapy is that they don’t commit. Many find the mask required for the treatment to be uncomfortable, leading them to discontinue further treatment. However, those who did continue using PAP therapy experienced positive results.

“Our research showed that early recognition and treatment of patients hospitalized with decompensated congestive heart failure is associated with a reduction in readmissions, for patients who use their positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy on a regular basis,” said first author Sunil Sharma, M.D., FAASM, Associate Professor of Pulmonary Medicine in the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University.

These results heavily indicate that sleep apnea and heart failure may be connected. “Physicians should be on the lookout for sleep apnea in patients with heart failure with the goal of diagnosing and treating early, which might help prevent readmissions and emergency room visits,” Dr. Sharma said. While more research needs to be done to validate these findings, this research puts patients and doctors on alert.