Accumulating evidence shows that obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. However, there are no published prospective studies on the relationship between OSA and the progression of arterial stiffness. We hypothesised that OSA would increase the risk of arterial stiffness progression, independent of obesity. In the present large cohort study, 1921 participants were randomly selected and underwent polysomnography. The brachial ankle pulse wave velocity (baPWV) was measured at baseline and during the follow-period using a standard protocol. Elevated baPWV was defined as a value greater than the cut-off of highest tertile level in the complete study cohort. The percentage of elevated baPWV and the ΔbaPWV significantly increased with OSA severity. After adjusting for potential confounding factors, participants with moderate-to-severe OSA without hypertension had a significantly higher risk of elevated ΔbaPWV than those without OSA. More importantly, using multivariate mixed-effect models, we found that the ΔbaPWV over 6 years significantly differed according to OSA severity. Therefore, moderate-to-severe OSA in participants without hypertension was a predictor of future burden of arterial stiffness progression, independent of obesity, suggesting that it may contribute to the increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
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