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Can Sleep Apnea Cause a Heart Attack?

Posted On September 15, 2014
September 15, 2014

There is a growing trend that indicates people with sleep apnea  also suffer from heart disease. The direct connection is a bit more difficult to find, but the coincidence is overwhelming. Most people with sleep apnea also have hypertension, or high blood pressure. With this connection, people often ask, “Can sleep apnea cause a heart attack?”

The Connection between Sleep Apnea and Heart Attacks 

Mayo Clinic Heart Attack Study

The Mayo Clinic performed a study in partnership with the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), that closely watched over 10,000 people with sleep apnea. The study lasted nearly 5 and a half years. In that time, 142 people died from a heart-related episode. The study also found that people that were over 60, and those who stopped breathing 20 times or more per hour due to their sleep apnea, were more likely to have a cardiac episode.

Sleep Apnea and Your Blood

Your bloodstream is dependent on your lungs for the transfer of oxygen for carbon dioxide. When you inhale, the oxygen your body needs is sucked into small air sacs in the lungs. These sacs then transfer the oxygen form the air into the bloodstream in exchange for carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is then sucked out when you exhale. When you stop breathing two major things happen, your blood builds-up carbon dioxide, and your blood doesn’t get oxygen. Both are very bad for the cardiovascular system. Not only can this increase your blood pressure, it deprives your two most important organs from needed oxygen, your heart and brain.

The Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Virend Somers noted that when a person stops breathing 20 or more times an hour, as is common in severe sleep apnea, your blood oxygen level drops 22 percent. When you multiply this drop by years, and add in obesity or lung disease, the outcome can be deadly.

Manage Sleep Apnea

Preventing a cardiac episode starts with managing your sleep apnea. Letting your sleep apnea go undiagnosed and untreated can lead to major health complications that extend beyond your sleep. There are a number of treatment options for sleep apnea, a few are:

  • Radiofrequency Ablation of the Tongue Base (RFA)- emitting targeted energy to the base of the tongue in the back of the throat to tighten and reduced its size. This directly prevents the tongue from blocking the airway while the patient is sleeping.
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) – a mask is worn over the nose while sleeping to prevent the airway restriction that can prompt episodes of sleep apnea. The upper airway is held open through a pressurized stream of air that is filtered through the mask.
  • Lifestyle Changes – Cigarette smoking, obesity, and sedentary lifestyles are just some of the factors known to increase the likelihood and severity of sleep apnea. Eliminating or reducing these risk factors will substantially decrease the presence and severity of sleep apnea in most individuals.

If you have sleep apnea and would like to learn more about treatment options, we can help. Please contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 to schedule a free consultation.




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