It’s a tragic paradox that heart disease, a condition that kills more Americans every year than any other cause of death, is controllable and, in most cases, preventable. Controlling health conditions that can increase your risk for heart disease are just as important as maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise routine and avoiding tobacco products. For example, obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that causes a person to stop breathing and results in low blood oxygen, is associated with higher instances of certain cardiovascular problems. In honor of American Heart Month, we’re taking a look at what the research says and how treating sleep apnea can help you dramatically reduce your risk for heart disease.
Linking Cardiovascular Health to Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea happens when tissues in your throat relax and block the passage of air, stopping you from breathing for several seconds. Your body senses the lack of oxygen and panics, sending signals to your brain to wake up. Although you may not register these waking episodes consciously, they prevent your body and mind from entering REM sleep, the deepest and most curative level of sleep. Extensive scientific research into the connection between sleep apnea and heart disease have revealed that chronic exhaustion paired with low blood oxygen levels can lead to:
- High blood pressure. When your body senses the lack of oxygen and goes into panic mode, the blood vessels contract, raising your blood pressure. Even after you've awoken in the morning, your vessels remain contracted and your blood pressure remains high.
- Heart attack. Research published in 2013 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology linked sleep apnea to a dramatically higher risk for sudden fatal and non-fatal cardiac arrest.
- Stroke. Although the exact nature of the relationship between stroke and obstructive sleep apnea is not known, scientists theorize that low blood oxygen paired with reduced blood flow contribute to conditions that can lead to stroke. In fact, people with severe sleep apnea are nearly two times as likely to suffer from a stroke than a person without sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea Treatment Can Save Your Life
Diagnosing and treating sleep apnea, either through a surgical procedure or using an oral appliance or a CPAP machine, results in lowered blood pressure within just a few weeks of use. Even better, a newfound quality of sleep helps most patients feel more energized and alert throughout the day.
About Dr. Marco Cueva
Marco Cueva, DDS, MS is a board-certified periodontist with extensive training and experience providing a variety of sleep apnea treatment options, including oral appliances and surgical solutions. New patients can schedule an appointment with Periodontic Excellence at our Allen, TX dental office by calling 972-390-9944.