How Sleep Apnea Can Lead to Heart Disease & Stroke

on October 17, 2018

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea occurs when you stop breathing for 5-30 times per hour or more. It prevents restful sleep. It is associated with high blood pressure, arrhythmia and heart failure.

Isn’t Sleep Apnea a disease of overweight people?

There are two major types of sleep apnea:

  1. Obstructive sleep apnea is associated with obesity. The upper airway closes off because the muscles cannot hold the airway open
  2. Central sleep apnea occurs less frequently. It is caused by the lack of brain signals to the diaphragm which cause the lungs to expand and contract.

Common symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  1. Loud snoring
  2. Episodes in which you stop breathing during sleep — which would be reported by another person
  3. Gasping for air during sleep
  1. Awakening with a dry mouth
  2. Morning headache
  3. Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)
  4. Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
  5. Irritability

Complications of sleeps apnea include:

  1. Daytime fatigue:
    1. Major accidents have occurred from train conductors or truck drivers falling asleep at the wheel. Accidents have occurred in many private citizens also.
    2. You might feel quick-tempered, moody or depressed.
    3. Children and adolescents with sleep apnea might perform poorly in school or have behavior problems.
  2. Drop in your oxygen levels at night can affect your heart by:
    1. Increasing blood pressure
    2. Increasing your risk of heart attack, stroke and abnormal heartbeats, such as atrial fibrillation.
    3. Cause sudden death from an irregular heartbeat.
  3. Type 2 diabetes: Having sleep apnea increases your risk of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
  4. Metabolic syndrome: This disorder, which includes high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, high blood sugar and an increased waist circumference, is linked to a higher risk of heart disease.
  5. Liver problems: More likely to have abnormal results on liver function tests and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
  6. Sleep-deprived partners: We all know that this is not optimum.

Sharon Mattioli, APRN

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