Sleep apnea is a dangerous health condition that puts your life and health at risk. Among the most serious of these risks is cardiovascular dangers ranging from high blood pressure (hypertension), to stroke, heart failure, and cardiovascular death.
A recent, comprehensive review of the evidence confirms that sleep apnea nearly doubles your risk of cardiovascular problems. The Lee’s Summit sleep dentists at the Center for TMJ & Sleep Apnea want you to understand the risks so you realize how important it is to get sleep apnea treatment that you will use effectively. If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea and are looking for an effective, comfortable, and convenient sleep apnea treatment, we can help.
How Serious Are the Risks?
Cardiovascular conditions are already the leading cause of death among American adults, accounting for about one in three deaths, according to the CDC. However, the risk is even greater for people with sleep apnea. A major new review of the evidence underscores this risk. The study, published in an imprint of the prestigious journal Nature, Primary Care Respiratory Medicine, looked at the entire body of research connecting sleep apnea and cardiovascular problems. Reviewers evaluated over 2600 articles, eventually choosing the 76 most reliable studies to determine the impact of sleep apnea on cardiovascular disease risk.
Putting the results together indicated that people with sleep apnea have 1.76 times the risk of suffering cardiovascular disease compared to people without the condition. For people who have a cardiovascular disease diagnosis, the risk of new adverse events goes up even more, perhaps as high as 3.58 times that of someone without sleep apnea.
Cardiovascular risks that increase with sleep apnea include:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Atrial fibrillation
- Coronary artery disease
- Heart failure
- Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
- Transient ischemic attack
We’ll talk in more detail about some of these risks and how sleep apnea makes them more likely. However, we recently focused on atrial fibrillation, so we won’t talk more about that here.
High Blood Pressure
Hypertension (high blood pressure) is one of the most common cardiovascular problems, affecting nearly half of all adults, although Lee’s Summit is in an area with relatively low prevalence (estimated less than 33% by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)). High blood pressure is significant because it leads to many other complications. For example, people with high blood pressure are at a higher risk for heart disease and stroke. However, high blood pressure can also significantly affect other systems in the body, such as causing kidney damage and increasing the risk of blindness due to glaucoma.
Although we don’t fully understand the mechanism, sleep apnea likely contributes to high blood pressure because when breathing stops, the brain signals the heart to beat harder and faster. The repetition of this process leads to chronic high blood pressure. One important distinction is that sleep apnea is most strongly related to resistant hypertension, or high blood pressure that can’t be controlled despite the use of three different medications. Nearly ¾ of people with this type of high blood pressure have sleep apnea.
Fortunately, there is substantial evidence that treating sleep apnea can help manage high blood pressure for these people.
Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary artery disease, sometimes called coronary heart disease, is the most prevalent type of heart disease in the US. In this condition, the arteries that supply the heart experience buildup of fatty deposits that restrict the flow of blood to the heart.
Coronary artery disease might be linked to snoring independently. The vibrations caused by snoring can cause micro-injuries in your blood vessels. These injuries lead to scarring of the arteries that can contribute to the accumulation of fatty deposits.
High blood pressure can increase the risk that these deposits will break away. When these deposits break away, they can fully block the blood supply to all or part of the heart, which is called myocardial infarction. The heart can’t function without blood supply. Even when the blood supply is restored, the heart might experience long-term injury. This injury can reduce the heart’s ability to pump blood, what is known as heart failure.
Many people with heart failure have sleep apnea. However, heart failure increases the likelihood that you have central sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is normally the most common kind. It occurs when your airway collapses because muscles supporting your airway relax. In central sleep apnea, your brain doesn’t tell your body to breathe. Your brain only gets reminded to tell your body to breathe because it experiences oxygen shortage. Currently, CPAP is the only effective treatment for central sleep apnea. If you want a CPAP alternative, talk to a Lee’s Summit sleep dentist quickly and get treatment before you experience heart failure and central sleep apnea.
Stroke occurs when something blocks the blood vessels in the brain. The most common type of stroke is ischemic stroke, which occurs when material breaks off from the deposits in your arteries, then gets caught in the narrow blood vessels of the brain, blocking the supply of blood.
When the brain loses blood supply, it can no longer function properly. Worse, it can suffer permanent damage that leads to reduced brain function for life. Transient ischemic attack (TIA) is sometimes called a mini-stroke. It’s essentially the same as a stroke, but the clog comes loose after briefly blocking your blood vessels.
Sleep apnea increases your risk of stroke because high blood pressure can dislodge deposits in the arteries. In addition, the vibration from snoring can also cause injuries in your carotid arteries in your neck, increasing the risk of deposits there. Since the carotid arteries lead toward your brain, this increases the risk of stroke.
Sleep Apnea Treatment in Lee’s Summit
Hopefully now you understand how important it is to treat your sleep apnea. If you don’t want or can’t adapt to CPAP, that doesn’t mean giving up on sleep apnea treatment. Itstead, it’s a good idea to seek a CPAP alternative that is more comfortable to use and just as effective for most people.
The Lee’s Summit sleep dentists at the Center for TMJ & Sleep Apnea can evaluate you for an oral appliance. Oral appliance therapy works great for mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea, and it works well for severe sleep apnea if you can’t tolerate CPAP.
To learn more about CPAP alternatives in Lee’s Summit, please call (816) 795-1000 or use our online form to schedule an appointment at the Center for TMJ & Sleep Apnea, located near I-470 and 83rd St (exit 11).