Can Sleep Apnea Lead to Heart Disease?
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, claiming over 650,000 lives in 2019. There are many behaviors that increase the risk of heart disease including sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy diet, excessive alcohol consumption and more. However, there is one risk factor that often goes under-recognized – untreated Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive Sleep Apnea or OSA is a disorder where the tissues in the back of the throat collapse during sleep cutting off airways. When this collapse happens, snoring generally occurs. snoring is the main symptom of sleep apnea and occurs in 57% of men and 40% of women. Due to the occlusion of the airway, the brain cannot get the air it needs. To prevent this, the brain wakes up the body, sometimes just slightly, to get air circulating again. This may happen one to two times a night, but in extreme cases can happen more than once every two minutes.
Sleep is when the body heals and the brain recovers and forms memories. When the body is frequently waking up, it cannot rest and recover. This leads to a host of side effects including an increased risk of heart disease.
Is Sleep Apnea and Heart Disease Related?
Unfortunately, untreated sleep apnea can be dangerous even if you believe you are relatively healthy. In fact, patients with sleep apnea are 2-4 times more likely to develop abnormal heart rhythms. Patients with sleep apnea are 140% more likely to have heart failure.
The pauses in breathing that occur during an apnea event put a huge strain on the cardiovascular system. OSA causes the body to release stress hormones at night which can lead to high blood pressure. Generally, your blood pressure decreases at night by as much as 20%. This is completely normal and allows the heart to recoup. Since the heart never receives a break during the day, it is vital for your health that your heart receives this break. However, when the body releases these stress hormones, your blood pressure does not have a chance to drop, and your heart is put under strain for a longer period of time. This increased strain can eventually lead to heart disease.
Obesity is a contributing factor for heart disease and sleep apnea as well, However, even if obesity is not present, a patient is more likely to suffer from heart disease if they have sleep apnea. obesity also leads to poor sleep quality which can lead to weight gain which, in turn, increases the risk for heart disease. To help combat obesity, our office also offers weight loss programs. We are committed to our patient’s complete overall health and have numerous programs available.
What Should I Do If I Think I Have Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
If you think you may be at risk for sleep apnea or heart disease, we encourage you to take our sleep apnea screener. You can take it in under 15 minutes and will allow our doctors to quickly screen for your risk of OSA. These questions were developed by Cardiologists and are 92% accurate. This can be completed before any tests are done and is the perfect first step towards treating and preventing sleep apnea and heart disease.
If you have already taken a sleep screener or feel that you have some of these symptoms and would like to discuss your options, give us a call today. We will gladly walk you through the next steps and answer any questions you may have.