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05.02.2019 | Sleep Breathing Physiology and Disorders • Original Article | Ausgabe 4/2019

Sleep and Breathing 4/2019

Sleep apnea and galectin-3: possible sex-specific relationship

Sleep and Breathing > Ausgabe 4/2019
Mohita Singh, Craig L. Hanis, Susan Redline, Christie M. Ballantyne, Ihab Hamzeh, David Aguilar
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Sleep apnea is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Elevated plasma galectin-3 levels, a biomarker associated with myocardial fibrosis, are also associated with adverse cardiovascular events, including heart failure. Our objective was to determine the relationship between severity of sleep apnea and plasma levels of galectin-3 and to determine whether this relationship was modified by sex.


We performed a cross-sectional study of 471 Mexican Americans from Starr County, TX who underwent an overnight, in-home sleep evaluation, and plasma measurement of galectin-3. Severity of sleep apnea was based on apnea hypopnea index (AHI). Multivariable linear regression modeling was used to determine the association between categories of sleep apnea and galectin-3. We also tested for interactions by sex.


The mean age was 53 years, and 74% of the cohort was female. The prevalence of moderate to severe sleep apnea (AHI > 15 apnea–hypopnea events per hour) was 36.7%. Moderate to severe sleep apnea was associated with increased levels of galectin-3 in the entire population, but we identified a statistically significant interaction between galectin-3 levels and category of sleep apnea by sex (p for interaction = 0.02). Plasma galectin levels were significantly higher in women with moderate or severe sleep apnea than women with no/mild sleep apnea (multivariable adjusted p < 0.001), but not in men (p = 0.5).


Sleep apnea is associated elevated galectin-3 levels in women but not men. Our findings highlight a possible sex-specific relationship between sleep apnea and galectin-3, a biomarker of potential myocardial fibrosis that has been associated with increased cardiovascular risk.

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