The Sleep Apnea / Heart Disease Connection

September 20, 2020
Avatar for Kelley MingusKelley Mingus

You may have already heard that obstructive sleep apnea is connected to myriad other health conditions, including heart disease, but do you know the how and why these two serious conditions are connected? Here’s what you should know about sleep apnea and your cardiovascular health.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition where the airway becomes obstructed while you sleep. This causes the affected person to stop and restart breathing. This stopping and starting can occur sometimes up to 40 times per hour, and can do serious damage to your body as you sleep.

Though sleep apnea usually occurs in persons who are obese or overweight, it can occur in anyone, and should be taken seriously no matter what your BMI is.

The connection between OSA and your heart happens like this: as your body stops breathing, the body’s blood oxygen levels drop. This causes the body to produce a stress hormone called epinephrine, which is also known as adrenaline. This adrenaline is okay in short bursts, but with time, can cause high blood pressure. That’s why if you have high blood pressure and / or are being treated for high blood pressure, you may be at a higher risk for OSA.

High blood pressure is dangerous because these spikes in blood pressure damage the lining of your blood vessels. Combine this with sleep disturbances increasing your LDL cholesterol levels, and this is the perfect recipe for clogged arteries and weak heart muscles. In fact, according to Harvard Medical School, persons who have untreated sleep apnea have double the chance of having a heart attack than those who do not have sleep apnea.

So, what can you do to protect your heart? Follow these tips!

Maintain a Healthy Weight

One of the main causes of both cardiovascular illnesses and obstructive sleep apnea is obesity, so maintaining a healthy weight is key to reducing your risk for both.

Get Sleep Tested

If you think you could have obstructive sleep apnea, get a sleep test to see if you truly do have the condition.

Get Treated for Sleep Apnea

If you have a sleep apnea diagnosis, don’t avoid treatment. Speak to Dr. Mingus today about your sleep apnea treatment options and reduce your risk of cardiovascular problems.