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Sleep apnea could signal greater danger

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3:21pm, November 21, 2005

The nighttime breathing disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea doubles a person's risk of stroke or death, a new study suggests.

In this form of apnea, a person's breathing halts for at least 10 seconds at a time during sleep, typically when relaxed muscle or fatty tissue in the throat covers the windpipe. The resulting interruptions in oxygen flow to the brain and heart cause the lungs to work harder, finally tripping a fight-or-flight reflex that arouses the sleeper just enough to catch his or her breath. The outcome disrupts sleep and can harm the heart.

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