A cardiologist orders a sleep study to diagnose sleep apnea syndrome. Often, sleep apnea syndrome is accompanied by obesity, hypertension, a tendency to develop heart arrhythmias, and cardiovascular disease, which are seen and treated by a cardiologist.
- According to estimates, people with sleep apnea are two to four times more likely to get heart arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) than those without this problem.
- Heart failure risk is increased by 140 percent by sleep apnea, whereas coronary heart disease risk is increased by 30 percent.
- People with sleep apnea frequently have insufficient or fragmented sleep, and routine lack of sleep can be harmful to heart health. Allowing the body to rest and recover is one of the many crucial functions of sleep. As breathing becomes calm and regular during sleep, blood pressure, and heart rate decrease.
- The heart and circulatory system do not receive this crucial healing period when people with diseases such as obstructive sleep apnea do not get enough sleep. A higher risk of hypertension, cardiac disease, heart attacks, and stroke has been associated with long-term sleep deprivation.
3 effects of sleep apnea on the cardiovascular system
Sleep apnea is characterized by frequent breathing pauses that can stress and even harm the cardiovascular system as a whole. Several biochemical mechanisms have been proposed, yet more research is needed to fully understand how sleep apnea affects the cardiovascular system and causes heart disease.
- Activation of the sympathetic nervous system: The amount of oxygen in the blood reduces each time a person with sleep apnea stops breathing.
- Specialized cells in the body known as chemoreceptors detect changes in the body’s oxygen levels and trigger the sympathetic nervous system, causing blood pressure spikes, narrowing of blood pressure, and irregular breathing patterns.
- Repeated fluctuations in blood pressure may cause hypertension or worsen preexisting hypertension if the breath pauses persist throughout the night.
- Changes in pressure within the chest: The upper airway narrows or closes when a person with obstructive sleep apnea tries to breathe in.
- These unsuccessful, forceful inhalations can significantly alter the chest cavity's pressure.
- These repeated intrathoracic pressure shifts can trigger atrial fibrillation (an irregular, frequently rapid heartbeat), issues with blood supply to the heart, and even heart failure.
- Oxidative stress: A person with sleep apnea can successfully inhale after each breath pause.
- This inhalation replenishes the tissues of the body, including the blood and lungs, with much-needed oxygen.
- Oxidative stress, which is brought on by frequently changing oxygen levels, can be extremely damaging to the body.
- Systemic inflammation, as well as neurochemical and physiological responses that raise the risk of heart disease, can all be promoted by oxidative stress.
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When to see a doctor
Knowing when to consult a doctor is crucial because untreated sleep apnea has serious health consequences. If you're worried that you could have sleep apnea, your primary care physician or a specialist (such as a sleep physician or an ear, nose, and throat physician) are all excellent resources.
A thorough sleep assessment and polysomnography are frequently used as diagnostic tests for sleep apnea to identify or rule out this dangerous illness.
A few typical sleep apnea warning signs and symptoms include:
5 treatment options for sleep apnea to reduce the risk of heart disease
Depending on the type of sleep apnea found, the following treatments may be used:
- Positive airway pressure devices: These pump air through the airway to prevent the upper airway from collapsing during sleep
- Lifestyle changes: Doctors may start by explaining to people how changing sleeping posture, as well as losing weight, exercising, consuming less alcohol, and quitting smoking may be beneficial.
- Mouthpieces and oral appliances: Oral appliances reduce disordered breathing by changing the position of the jaw, tongue, or another part of the body that’s constricting the airway.
- Surgery: Surgery to treat sleep apnea may involve removing bodily components that restrict the airway or implanting devices that stimulate the muscles surrounding the airway to contract.
- Mouth and throat exercises: Depending on the underlying reason for a person's sleep apnea, specific mouth and throat exercises may help tone these muscles and reduce the likelihood that they may obstruct breathing while a person is sleeping.
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