Sleep Apnea and Heart Problems

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Sleep Apnea and Heart Problems

Sleep apnea has been linked in multiple ways to heart problems. It is not difficult to understand why these two conditions would be connected considering the long-term effects that sleep apnea has on the body.

If you have sleep apnea, you experience periods in the night when your breathing becomes shallow or you might have pauses in your breathing for a few seconds or a couple of minutes. This causes the level of oxygen in the blood to decrease, which has a negative effect on the cardiovascular system.

A recent study conducted by Drexel University found obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) to be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. It is also common for people who suffer from OSA to have high blood pressure or to have hypertension, which each also have detrimental effects on the cardiovascular system.

Why Is This Link Important?

It is essential to understand that sleep apnea puts you at a greater risk for developing serious heart health problems. Therefore, treating sleep apnea is an important preventative measure to take when protecting yourself against these life-threatening conditions.

Common Signs of Sleep Apnea

If you suffer from OSA, your airways are obstructed as you are trying to sleep. This means that you will likely be a loud snorer. Your partner or roommate might notice this before you. You might also experience dry mouth or sore throat frequently from sleeping with your mouth open.

Sleep apnea will also cause you to experience symptoms of sleep deprivation, such as extreme fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. If you find it difficult to stay awake through work, while reading, or while driving long distances, it is worthwhile to see a doctor about sleep apnea treatment.

Treating Sleep Apnea and Reducing Risk for Hearth Disease

There are recommended lifestyle changes that are often used as the first safe and noninvasive method for addressing sleep apnea. These changes often include a change in diet and an increase in activity to reduce excess weight. Those who smoke or drink alcohol are often asked to reduce or stop these activities.

These same lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of heart problems not only because it can potentially stop the sleep apnea, but also because these lifestyle changes are heart healthy choices even if you have not yet been diagnosed with an apnea. Sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease share multiple risk factors.

If lifestyle changes alone are not enough to stop the sleep apnea symptoms, a CPAP device will likely be the next step. A CPAP (continuous positive air pressure) machine helps keep the airflow received by the body from decreasing throughout the night. This allows the body to receive healthy amounts of oxygen and keeps the blood oxygen levels from dropping, thus reducing the risk of heart problems. If you are concerned about your quality of sleep, and think you might have sleep apnea, it is best for you and your heart that you consult with a physician as soon as possible to discuss the best treatment plan.

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