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Sleep Apnea Treatment May Be Key to Stroke Recovery

We know that sleep apnea is a common risk factor for stroke, but now new research shows that treating the condition might also help people recover faster after a stroke, or mini-stroke.

Patients in the study used a CPAP mask – Continuous Positive Airway Pressure – to ease their nighttime sleep apnea symptoms.

The researchers found that among stroke patients, the CPAP therapy provided significant benefits — even better than prescription medication for the treatment for stroke.

66% Stroke Patients Have Sleep Apnea

According to the researchers, sleep apnea is common among people who’ve had a stroke or mini-stroke, but few are diagnosed and treated for the condition. It’s estimated that two out of three stroke patients are thought to have the condition, which can lead to low oxygen levels, high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat.

In the study, researchers tracked 252 people who had experienced a stroke or mini-stroke for up to one year.

The patients were randomly divided into three groups: a control group who received standard care without sleep apnea treatment; standard care plus CPAP therapy; or enhanced care with CPAP therapy. Patients who used CPAP did so for an average of 50 percent of nights.

Improvement in Neurological Symptoms

The researchers reported that 59 percent of patients who received CPAP therapy showed marked improvement in their recovery, in terms of improvements in neurological symptoms. This compared with 38 percent of those who didn’t get CPAP.

Timing of therapy may be key, as well, the study authors said.

Preliminary data suggests the sooner you treat sleep apnea in stroke patients with CPAP, the more potent the effect of that treatment.

The findings were published earlier this month in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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