Obstructive sleep apnea is associated with future subclinical carotid artery disease: thirteen-year follow-up from the Wisconsin sleep cohort

Sverrir I Gunnarsson, Paul E Peppard, Claudia E Korcarz, Jodi H Barnet, Susan E Aeschlimann, Erika W Hagen, Terry Young, K Mae Hla, James H Stein
Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology 2014, 34 (10): 2338-42

OBJECTIVE: To determine the longitudinal associations between obstructive sleep apnea, carotid artery intima-media thickness (IMT), and plaque.

APPROACH AND RESULTS: This is a population-based, prospective cohort study conducted from July, 1989, to November, 2012, on 790 randomly selected Wisconsin residents who completed a mean of 3.5 (range, 1-6) polysomnograms during the study period. Obstructive sleep apnea was characterized by the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI, events/h). Common carotid artery IMT and plaque were assessed by B-mode ultrasound. The mean (SD) time from the first polysomnograms to carotid ultrasound was 13.5 (3.6) years. Multivariable regression models were created to estimate the independent associations of baseline and cumulative obstructive sleep apnea exposure with subsequent carotid IMT and plaque. At baseline, the mean age of participants was 47.6 (7.7) years (55% men, 97% white). AHI was 4.4 (9.0) events/h (range, 0-97); 7% had AHI >15 events/h. Carotid IMT was 0.755 (0.161) mm; 63% had plaque. Adjusting for age, sex, body mass index, systolic blood pressure, smoking, and use of lipid-lowering, antihypertensive, and antidiabetic medications, baseline AHI independently predicted future carotid IMT (β=0.027 mm/unit log10[AHI+1]; P=0.049), plaque presence (odds ratio, 1.55 [95% confidence intervals, 1.02-2.35]; P=0.041) and plaque score (odds ratio, 1.30 [1.05-1.61]; P=0.018). In cumulative risk factor-adjusted models, AHI independently predicted future carotid plaque presence (P=0.012) and score (P=0.039), but not IMT (P=0.608).

CONCLUSIONS: Prevalent obstructive sleep apnea is independently associated with increased carotid IMT and plaque more than a decade later, indicating increased future cardiovascular disease risk.

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