If you or someone you love has Obstructive Sleep Apnea, you may have concern about how it can impact overall health, particularly the heart. We believe the best weapon against this fear is treatment and education. Through a recent interview with Dr. Said Mostafavi, a leader in sleep medicine, we have gathered the most essential information you should know about the correlation between sleep apnea and heart disease.
What is sleep apnea?
There are different types of sleep apnea, but the most common is Obstructive Sleep Apnea. It occurs when the upper airway collapses or becomes blocked while sleeping. As you can imagine, there are risks posed beyond inadequate sleep. If left untreated, patients can have three times the increased risk of mortality as those without OSA.
Who can it impact?
While it is very common for those who are overweight to have OSA, it can impact those who are not obese as well. “The estimated prevalence in North America is approximately 20 to 30 percent in males and 10 to 15 percent in females,” according to Dr. Mostafavi. “OSA is more prevalent in African Americans who are younger than 35 years old compared with Caucasians of the same age group, independent of body weight. The prevalence of OSA in Asia is similar to that in the United States, despite lower rates of obesity, and linked risk related to craniofacial anatomy.” As you can see, although weight is a factor, it is not a given that if you are not overweight this cannot impact you as well.
Common Risk Factors
- Advanced Age
- Male Gender
- Obesity upper airway abnormalities
How can affect the heart?
To put it simply, when your breathing stops while you are sleeping, your body is not getting the amount of oxygen it needs. Your body then moves into motion by releasing adrenaline into your system. As this happens night after night and for some, year after year, it can lead to high blood pressure.
Here’s what Dr. Mostafavi had to say:
“These events are associated with intermittent hypoxemia and possibly hypercapnia and usually provoke an arousal from sleep. The arousal is associated with restoration of upper airway patency and ventilation. … OSA is associated with a significant increase in sympathetic activity during sleep, which in turn influences heart rate and blood pressure.”
How can CPAP Therapy help?
In a 2015 study, researchers found that deaths from cardiovascular disease were more common in untreated OSA patients. In total, there were 31% more cardiovascular events total in the untreated group than the treated group. Some researchers are even considering that therapy may have the potential to reduce damage to the heart.
Dr. Mostafavi states that a combination of “Weight loss and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy have been shown to improve outcomes in randomized trials.” However, if patients are not compliant in their treatments, they will be far less likely to see results.
So, can sleep apnea cause a heart attack? The answer is yes, if left untreated. If you suspect you or someone you love may have OSA, it’s time to seek medical advice and start feeling better soon! Contact us to see how we can assist you with your health.