The early heart damage seen in diabetes patients is also seen in people with obstructive sleep apnea, a condition where a person may stop breathing during sleep, according to a small new study.
The study, conducted by Romanian researchers, shows that people with obstructive sleep apnea have stiffer arteries than people without the condition -- similar to the arterial stiffness witnessed in people with diabetes. Stiff arteries are known to contribute to heart risks.
The study "suggests that OSA [obstructive sleep apnea] is associated with a high risk for cardiovascular disease," study researcher Dr. Raluca Mincu said in a statement.
The study included 20 people without diabetes, who had moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea, as well as 20 people with diabetes and 20 people who are healthy. Researchers analyzed how well their arteries were able to function with a series of tests.
Researchers found that the stiff arteries were similar between the diabetes and obstructive sleep apnea groups, and their arteries were both stiffer than the healthy people.
The findings were presented at the EUROECHO and other Imaging Modalities 2012 meeting; because they have yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, they should be regarded as preliminary.
Still, previous research has also drawn a link between sleep apnea and negative arterial effects. One study in mice, conducted by Baylor College of Medicine researchers, showed that sleep apnea could have an impact on the ability of the brain's blood vessels to function -- which could potentially increase risk of stroke.