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UB study finds higher sleep apnea mortality rates for Black men

The study states that the number of deaths from sleep apnea has continued to rise for Black men, but have flattened for white people and Black females.
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BUFFALO, N.Y. — A recent study by researchers the University at Buffalo found that more Black men die of sleep apnea than white people or Black females. 

The study states that the number of deaths from sleep apnea has continued to rise for Black men, but have flattened for white people and Black females.

Sleep apnea is a sleep-related disorder that could cause other health problems, such as hypertension, cardiovascular morbidity and mortality and abnormalities in glucose metabolism.

“Despite several epidemiologic studies focusing on the prevalence, risk factors and clinical presentations of sleep apnea, no study, to our knowledge, has evaluated the disparity of sleep apnea-related mortality among different racial groups,” said Yu-Che Lee, MD, first author and a medical resident in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB, who sees patients through the Catholic Health System. “We therefore brought up an idea to do the research discussing the difference of sleep apnea-related mortality and mortality trends from 1999 to 2019 between Black and white Americans.”

As part of the study, researchers examined sleep apnea-related mortality between 1999 and 2019 from the National Center of Health Statistics provided by the CDC. Lee and his fellow researchers found an increase in mortality from years 1999-2008, but then rates flattened for Black females and white people. However, the mortality numbers continued to rise for Black males. 

Researchers believe medical management and health interventions helped stabilize the outcomes for white men and women and Black females.

“Our study showed that Black men were the only demographic group to have a continuous sleep apnea mortality increase in the last 10 years, which is truly concerning,” said Lee. 

M. Jeffery Mador, MD, associate professor in the Department of Medicine in the Jacobs School and a study co-author, says poor compliance using CPAP machines, or not getting treatment are some factors that could lead to higher mortality rates. 

“It is extremely likely that deaths occurred because the subjects were untreated or poorly compliant with therapy,” Mador said. “CPAP therapy is highly effective and very few deaths, if any, would be expected if the subjects were adequately treated, followed and were able to use the therapy.”

Another finding in the study, researchers say there are  "remarkable" geographical differences in sleep apnea-related mortality. The highest mortality rates were seen in the mid-west for both Black and white people.   New York had the lowest mortality rates for Black and white people. 

You can read more on the study here: https://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2022/05/004.html