MIAMI (CBS4)– Could sleep apnea be shortening your life? Recent research has found new ways to prevent potentially life threatening blood vessel damage caused by the disease.

Sleep apnea affects about 15 million adults in the U.S. Research has found that the disease, which causes people to stop breathing for up to 10 seconds while they are asleep, may cause abnormalities in the blood vessels connected to the heart.

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A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association looked at 108 people who suffered from the disorder. Results showed even the healthy patients had the abnormalities which could lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.

“Those vessels can become obstructed and heart attacks can occur,” explains Dr. Reena Mehra from the UH Case Medical Center.

But, there is hope. Doctors can treat sleep apnea patients with a positive airway pressure mask which helps keep the airway open and vessels working to capacity.

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Doctors also recommend some lifestyle changes.

“Weight loss, avoidance of alcohol, avoidance of certain medications,” can all help according to Dr. Mehra.

Not sleeping on your back might also help to get a better, healthier nights rest.

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With these new treatments and findings, people with sleep apnea may be able to sleep a little easier.