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    Get in the Know: Sleep Apnea, Heart Health, and Longevity

    Posted: December 23, 2019

    sleep apnea treatmentBy Vidya Pai, MD

    National Sleep Medicine Director at Low T Center

    Sleep apnea can cause many unwanted symptoms, like daytime fatigue, mood changes, and difficulty concentrating. Additionally, sleep apnea sufferers often report loud snoring, waking up choking or gasping for air, and frequently waking up to urinate. The word apnea literally means “without breath” in Latin. Therefore, sleep apnea is a condition which causes you to stop breathing for short periods of time during sleep. These cessations can happen between 5 to more than 30 times per hour. CPAP therapy for sleep apnea treatment is often effective at reducing symptoms and can also help reduce the other risks and complications that sleep apnea sufferers may face. In addition to symptom relief, sleep apnea treatment can also help patients reduce their risk of developing heart problems and dying prematurely.

    Sleep Apnea and Cardiovascular Disorders

    Because sleep apnea causes you to stop breathing during the night, patients with the condition have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disorders. A few of the conditions that are linked to sleep apnea include: heart arrhythmia, heart attack, strokes, hypertension, and coronary artery disease. Pauses in breathing cause your heart rate to slow and oxygen levels to drop during apnea events. Then, your heart rate will often accelerate in response to help your body breathe again. This can put enormous stress on your heart and lead to other serious complications. For example, hypertension, or high blood pressure, is common in sleep apnea sufferers.

    Hypertension is also a risk factor that increases your chance of developing dangerous heart problems. Nearly 30% of those with high blood pressure also have obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. Additionally, having OSA means you have a 50% chance of also having hypertension.

    Another common cardiovascular complication that is often found in sleep apnea sufferers is atrial fibrillation. This is a type of arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, that can lead to blood clots, stroke, and heart failure. Studies show that those treated for atrial fibrillation who also have untreated sleep apnea have a 25% return rate for their irregular heartbeat.

    Other Risk Factors of Sleep Apnea

    In addition to these dangerous heart problems, sleep apnea patients may also have a higher chance of obesity and mortality. Obesity is one of the risk factors of OSA, as excessive fatty tissue in the neck can obstruct your upper airway as you sleep. However, sleep deprivation caused by sleep apnea can also worsen weight gain. Therefore, obesity in sleep apnea sufferers can be self-perpetuating, as it is both a cause and a symptom of sleep apnea. Obesity is linked to several other health risks as well, including cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, strokes and even some cancers. Therefore, sleep apnea can worsen or cause excessive weight gain and lead to more serious health complications.

    Additionally, recent studies show that sleep apnea sufferers are at an increased risk for mortality. Those with severe OSA are almost 3 times more likely to die of any cause compared to those without the condition. However, those with sleep apnea who don’t use their CPAP device increase their risk of death by nearly 4 times. Sleep apnea patients are also more likely to have accidents at work and car crashes, due to daytime fatigue caused by their condition.

    Therefore, sleep apnea is more than just a bad night’s sleep or feeling tired during the day. It can have major impacts on your life and increase your risk for other serious conditions. If left untreated, sleep apnea can be a dangerous condition. However, sleep apnea treatment can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular events and other health complications associated with sleep apnea.

    Sleep Apnea Treatment for Better Heart Health and Increased Longevity

    Luckily, there are ways to treat sleep apnea and reduce both the symptoms of the condition, and the risks of developing other serious health problems. CPAP therapy is an effective sleep apnea treatment that is prescribed to assist respiration during sleep and reduce or eliminate apnea events. Continuous positive airway pressure devices, or CPAP devices, increase the pressure in your upper airway to prevent your throat from narrowing as you sleep and causing apnea. CPAP therapy has helped many patients reduce their symptoms and enjoy better overall health.

    Sleep apnea treatment can also decrease the risks associated with the condition. CPAP devices can help lower the risk of cardiovascular complications caused by sleep apnea, as they prevent apnea events from occurring. Because of the pressure in the throat created by the device, patients typically breathe normally during the night and thereby improve their blood oxygen levels and blood pressure. A recent study also showed that CPAP users decreased their odds of death by any cause by about 62% over an 11-year period. Therefore, sleep apnea treatment can be beneficial for overall men’s health management and longevity for those with sleep apnea.

    Steps Toward Feeling Better with Sleep Apnea

    Knowing the risks and complications associated with sleep apnea is a great start. However, many patients aren’t sure how to proceed after they realize they may have sleep apnea. A great place to start is by visiting your sleep apnea clinic to talk about your symptoms and receive a diagnosis. In the past, sleep apnea diagnosis meant scheduling a sleep study in a lab. For a sleep study, you sleep in a lab and a technician monitors you during the night. Unfortunately, sleep labs can often be completely booked for months at a time. Additionally, many patients have a hard time re-creating a typical night in an unfamiliar environment.

    Instead, your physician may offer you a home sleep test to help diagnose you with sleep apnea. These tests are typically more convenient for you and don’t require you to spend a night away from home. You are sent home with the necessary equipment that will monitor your breathing and heart rate during the night to get data about your sleep patterns. From there, your physician will study the information to determine if you have sleep apnea.

    Afterwards, your physician will help you develop a sleep apnea treatment plan that works for you. This will likely include wearing a CPAP device nightly. Your sleep apnea treatment plan may also include lifestyle changes like decreasing your alcohol consumption and sleeping on your side instead of your back. Your physician will monitor your progress and make any necessary adjustments to help alleviate your sleep apnea symptoms.

    By leveraging technology and clinical expertise, the physicians at Low T Center can help you with sleep apnea diagnosis and sleep apnea treatment. If you are experiencing loud snoring, daytime fatigue, difficulty concentrating or other symptoms, make an appointment online today at the Low T Center sleep apnea clinic.

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    Disclaimer: This article is made available for general, entertainment and educational purposes only. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of Low T Center. You should always seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.