A doctor is using a stethoscope to listen to a patient's heart. This is a common procedure for heart patients.

Despite surgery, heart patients are still at risk for complications if they suffer from a sleep disorder.

Sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, can have a negative impact on your health. Prolonged suffering has been known to cause diabetes and cognitive deficiencies, as well as affect your overall quality of life. New research suggests that heart patients who have some form of sleeping disorder are at risk of developing further complication—and even death.

The Risk to Heart Patients

All 241 of the patients who participated in the study successfully underwent a procedure called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI). The procedure is meant to treat acute coronary syndrome (ACS), a condition where the blood supplied to the heart is blocked. PCI seeks to remove the blockage and reopen blocked arteries.

The goal of the study was to gather more data on the link between sleep apnea and heart disease. “Sleep-disordered breathing, which includes snoring and sleep apnea, has long been recognized as an important risk factor for heart disease. However, there is limited awareness of sleep-disordered breathing among cardiologists who care for PCI patients,” said Toru Mazaki, M.D., study author and chief physician of the Department of Cardiology, Kobe Central Hospital, Kobe, Japan.

When the patients were hospitalized for the surgical procedure, researchers examined their breathing during the night. For the next 5.6 years, the patients’ health was monitored for any further complications. Here is what they found:

  • 3 percent had sleep-disordered breathing.
  • 4 percent of those with sleep-disordered breathing had major cardiovascular events.
  • Only 7.8 percent of those without sleep-disordered breathing had major cardiovascular events.

These cardiovascular events include deaths, strokes, recurrent ACS, and heart failure. The research shows that there may be a link between the two disorders, even after the person has taken care of their heart issue.

Sleep disorders are becoming a prevalent problem for many people. The researchers hope that other doctors see sleep disorder as a warning signal for heart patients. “Doctors and patients should consider sleep studies post-PCI to rule out sleep-disordered breathing or take necessary precautions to restore healthy breathing during sleep,” says Dr. Mazaki.

The doctors even suggest that hospitalized heart patients who have undergone surgery should be routinely tested for sleep-disordered breathing. More research still needs to be done, and hopefully doctors can treat patients before their sleep disorder leads to more complications.