HealthDay News — Both men and women with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have an equally increased risk of ischemic stroke, not just men, according to researchers.

“OSA has been associated with increased incidence of stroke; however, most significant associations have been observed only in men,” wrote Suzie Bertisch, MD, MPH, and colleagues from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. “It has been postulated that men may have longer lifetime exposure to OSA than women, and thus gender differences in OSA-related morbidity may reflect inadequate follow-up time.”

To assess the association between obstructive apnea-hypopnea index (OAHI) scores and risk of ischemic stroke, researchers conducted a longitudinal analysis of 5,442 participants in the Sleep Heart Health Study. The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Thoracic Society.

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After adjustment, the researchers observed a significant positive association between OAHI and risk of stroke for patients in OAHI quartile II (hazard ratio, 1.61; 95% CI: 1.02-2.57) and quartile III (HR, 1.79; 95% CI: 1.15-2.80) compared with quartile I.

There was an increased risk for stroke for quartiles II through IV in both male and female patients, although the findings were not statistically significant. There were no differences in risk associated with OAHI quartile by gender (P-value for interaction >0.05).

“We found a significant association between OAHI quartile and incident ischemic stroke, with equal risk among men and women, suggests women are equally susceptible to the vascular effects of OSA,” wrote the researchers.


  1. Bertisch S et al. Obstructive (May, 2014). “Sleep Apnea And Incident Stroke: Sleep Heart Health 14-Year Follow-Up Study.” Paper presented at the American Thoracic Society annual meeting, San Diego, Cal.