Apnea is a common disorder that affects millions around the world, making people stop breathing for moments during sleep, and while it usually affects adults, it affects 10 percent of school-age children.
The study, prepared by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in the United States, said that children with obstructive sleep apnea are three times more likely to develop high blood pressure when they become a teenager.
In contrast, children who do not have apnea have a much lower chance of developing high blood pressure.
And blood pressure is a major factor that leads to heart disease.
“Our study showed that sleep apnea in children could serve as a gateway to high blood pressure in the future,” says study co-author Fernandez Mendoza, noting that this problem needs more attention, especially since it goes undiagnosed in most cases.
The researchers studied 421 children between the ages of 5 and 12 years, and monitored them throughout the night in a sleep laboratory, and found that about 12 percent of them suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, and researchers also measured blood pressure levels in this group.
After 8 years, the researchers evaluated these children again for sleep apnea and high blood pressure. At this point, the participants were on average 16 years old (ages 12 to 23).
The 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.
Additionally, these teens were also more likely to have a certain type of high blood pressure called orthostatic hypertension, which occurs when standing up quickly, and is a strong risk factor for heart disease in adulthood.