They say that “early to bed, early to rise can help you be healthy, wealthy and wise.” Sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease are two commonly linked conditions. People who have cardiovascular health issues often have other conditions such as high blood pressure, heart failure and stroke, and are more likely to develop sleep apnea. While the relationship between cardiovascular disease and sleep apnea is rapidly evolving, it is still unclear whether or not sleep apnea causes heart disease. What experts are sure of, however, is that those who suffer from sleep apnea have a much more significant chance of developing hypertension, or high blood pressure, in the future.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea occurs when a person has one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while they are sleeping. Breathing pauses can last from only a few seconds to as long as a few minutes followed by a loud choking or snorting sound. These episodes can occur from one to 100 times per hour.
How is blood pressure affected when you have sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea increases the risk of high blood pressure, or hypertension. Because sleep apnea is caused when the airway is obstructed, less oxygen is able to move into the lungs and into the blood stream.
What are the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea?
A family member or bed partner will usually be the first to notice problems due to the loud snorting and choking sounds made by those with sleep apnea. Other signs and symptoms include:
- Fighting sleepiness during the day
- Morning headaches
- Problems with concentration and memory
- Feeling irritable, depressed or having mood swings
- Dry mouth or sore throat upon waking
How is sleep apnea diagnosed?
If you or a family member believes that you may have sleep apnea, it is important to bring up these concerns with your primary physician, who will decide whether or not you need to see a specialist.
What can you expect when you visit a sleep specialist?
A specialist may perform a physical exam to check the size of tissues in your mouth, nose and throat. You may also be asked to stay overnight for a sleep study to diagnose how well you sleep and how severe your problem may be.
How is sleep apnea treated?
- Avoid medicines and alcohol.
- Lose weight.
- Sleep on your side.
- Use nasal sprays — keep nasal passages open.
- Quit smoking.
- A mouthpiece can be used to help adjust your lower jaw and tongue to keep your air passages open. This plastic device is used mostly for mild cases.
- A continuous positive airway pressure machine (CPAP) is the most common treatment for moderate to severe sleep apnea.
- Surgery is sometimes performed to widen breathing passages.
If you believe that you may be suffering from sleep apnea, it is important that you contact your physician immediately and discuss a plan to remedy the issue. Treat sleep apnea today so you can be healthier, wealthier and wiser! Call 888-452-IRMC (4762) to schedule an appointment.