The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NHI), funded a long-term study on how childhood sleep apnea impacts blood pressure in teen years. The findings suggest that treating this disorder is necessary to reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure, which may lead to further cardiovascular diseases or complications in adulthood.
How was this study conducted?
Researchers measured the blood pressure levels of 421 children from the ages of 5 to 12 years old, and monitored them overnight in a sleep lab. After eight years, researchers collected another round of data from the same group of children, then aged 12 to 23.
Upon comparing data sets from the two collection periods, researchers found that “children whose sleep apnea continued into adolescence were nearly three times more likely to develop high blood pressure compared to those who never had sleep apnea.” In addition, the children were more likely to develop a specific type of high blood pressure: orthostatic hypertension, which “occurs when standing up rapidly from a prone position” and “is considered a strong risk factor for heart disease in adulthood.” Other suggestions for the link between pediatric OSA and future high blood pressure include health complications caused by OSA including: “obesity,” “inflammation, oxidative stress, and impaired heart function.”
A follow-up for this study is currently being conducted to evaluate the impact of pediatric OSA on adult cardiovascular health.
What can you do to ensure the health of your child?
To reduce the risk of future health complications, OSA should be treated at the earliest stage possible. One of the most commonly believed OSA myths is that children cannot have sleep apnea, but the results of this study and other literature strongly disprove this myth. We previously wrote a separate blog called Can Children Have Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)? which dives into this topic in more detail.
The Good News? Pediatric OSA is a treatable disorder.
If you think your child may have OSA, various treatment options are available. Treatment often includes the removal of tonsils and adenoids as first-line therapy. The use of CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure), a typical adult therapy, is less common in pediatric OSA, but a plausible alternative in many cases.
If you are looking for advice or to speak to a board-certified sleep doctor, Ognomy can help. Remember that it is important to diagnose and treat sleep apnea in children, before the onset of any related health complications in their later years.