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Do You Know That Sleep Apnea Can Hurt Your Heart?

Posted On January 28, 2014
January 28, 2014

As we mature and grow older, at some point in time in our lives, we have all felt the pangs of unrequited love and felt like our heart was breaking. Of course, love is not the only manner in which our heart can hurt. Eating bacon double cheeseburgers can ratchet cholesterol levels to the point where arteries in the heart are blocked. Not exercising can result in developing a nice muffin top hanging over your belt, which can also tax proper blood flow to the heart. But do you know that sleep can affect your heart? Specifically, do you know that sleep apnea can hurt your heart?

Sleep apnea, precisely obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can wreak havoc on the health of your heart. OSA is a medical condition whereby an individual’s airway is blocked while sleeping at night. Breathing essentially stops multiple times in any given hour during a night of sleep. Given the fact that air does not flow properly to the lungs, oxygen becomes low in blood vessels and carbon dioxide increases. The brain does recognize that there is a problem, and a hormone is released into the blood stream, which results in an increase in blood pressure. The issue of low levels of oxygen in the bloodstream has a negative effect on multiple organs throughout the body, including the heart.

How OSA Can Hurt Your Heart

When someone suffers from OSA and has not sought a diagnosis or treatment, the quality of sleep is adversely impacted. A study conducted at the University of Chicago back in 2008 discovered a connection between an increase in calcium deposits (coronary artery calcification) and less than 6 hours of sleep a night in their test subjects. In other studies, results seem to indicate that getting a good night of sleep will assist in decreasing the work load of the heart at night, and help to keep the rate steady.

When someone is sleep deprived, like with OSA, researchers discovered that C-reactive protein levels increase. This protein, when elevated, is a good predictor of heart disease, such as high blood pressure, coronary artery disease and stroke.

In the past, studies connected the timing of sudden cardiac death in sleep apnea sufferers, that is to say, risk was at a peak between midnight and 6 a.m. In contrast, cardiac death was more likely to strike between 6 a.m. and noon for people who do not have sleep apnea. In 2013, a group at the Mayo Clinic published the results of their findings on the correlation between sleep apnea and sudden cardiac death. According to Virend Somers, MD, PhD, sudden death risk increases by a factor of two if the individual has untreated moderate to severe sleep apnea. Why? Theory is that the increase in risk is due to the fall in oxygen saturation levels.

The same Mayo Clinic group also conducted research on the connection between an irregular heartbeat, that is to say atrial fibrillation and sleep apnea. Published in Circulation, the results of this study demonstrated that the incidence of atrial fibrillation was higher in individuals with OSA than in people who were already at high risk for cardiovascular diseases.

Protect Your Heart

If you have sleep apnea, it is possible to protect your heart from damage. The first step is to make an appointment to be accurately diagnosed and seek proper treatment. You can also follow simple lifestyle modifications that can also keep your heart healthy, such as eating healthy, getting regular exercise and at least, 7 hours of restorative sleep a night.

If you have a heart condition or believe that you might have sleep apnea, please contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 or schedule a free consultation.

About Phoebe Ochman

Phoebe Ochman, Director of Communications for Sleep Apnea Treatment Centers of America, manages all content and communications for the company.
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