Are heart disease and obstructive sleep apnea related?

obstructive sleep apnea snoring

Patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have pauses in their breathing while sleeping that can occur anywhere between 5 and 30 or more times an hour.

The more pauses you experience in your breathing, the higher your risk for heart disease, irregular heartbeats, high blood pressure, and heart failure.  Moreover, heart issues increase your risk for OSA.

For patients in the Sacramento area, Dr. Timothy Mickiewicz has a passion for people that includes helping reduce or eliminate OSA issues. In fact, he has learned and studied dental sleep medicine so much that he has met the requirements to become board-certified through the Academy of Clinical Sleep Disorders Discipline.

Is obstructive sleep apnea really dangerous?

Studies prove that untreated obstructive sleep apnea is quite dangerous. The pauses in breathing increase your risk of heart disease. In turn, heart disease increases the symptoms of sleep apnea. The cycle continues, with each condition causing the other to worsen. The consequences can be life-threatening.

Research shows that untreated sleep apnea increases your risk of death from heart issues, such as high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, and sudden heart failure, fivefold. This is important to understand, as the leading cause of death in America is heart disease.

What is obstructive sleep apnea?

Most patients with sleep apnea have obstructive sleep apnea, which means the upper airway collapses or is blocked. Each time the airway obstructs, you experience a pause in breathing.

For a definitive diagnosis of sleep apnea, Dr. Mickiewicz may order a sleep study, which will monitor you while sleeping and count your pauses in breathing.

Patients who experience 5-15 pauses per hour have mild sleep apnea.

Patients with 15-30 pauses per hour have moderate sleep apnea.

With severe OSA, patients stop breathing more than 30 times each hour.

With each pause in breathing, you gasp for air. This gasp wakes you up. Most patients are awake so briefly, they are unaware woke up. However, each time you wake up, you are pulled out of deep sleep. This cycle prevents restful sleep, which can cause significant issues with daytime fatigue.

Another consequence involves your heart. Each time you stop breathing, your oxygen levels drop. The decrease in oxygen levels causes your brain to release the stress hormone epinephrine (adrenaline) to increase oxygen to your heart. Many people know this hormone as the “fight or flight” response. These jolts of adrenaline increase your blood pressure and heart rate.

The more times you stop breathing, the more adrenaline jolts you experience. Over time, these jolts of adrenaline contribute to the progression of cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure, heart failure, and irregular heartbeats.

What are the causes of obstructive sleep apnea?

The most common cause of OSA is obesity, as this results in reduced muscle tone and causes fat deposits in the upper airway, effectively narrowing it. Around two-thirds of patients with OSA are overweight. Moreover, obesity is also a major contributor to heart disease. This allows for yet another vicious cycle, as OSA can lead to further obesity, which also increases the risk of heart disease.

Another common cause of OSA is high blood pressure, which is another major risk factor for heart disease. Here we have another vicious cycle, as sleep apnea can worsen high blood pressure, which in turn worsens sleep apnea and increases the risk of heart disease.

Other risk factors for OSA include:

  • Being male
  • Diabetes
  • Large neck circumference
  • Large Tonsils
  • Narrowed airway
  • Post-menopausal females
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Genetics
  • Smoking
  • Asthma
  • Chronic nasal congestion
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Acromegaly

Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Approximately one-fifth of all adults have some form of sleep apnea, and the most common symptom is loud snoring. Since many patients do not realize they snore or wake up during the night, patients who live alone may be unaware.

It is important to understand, however, that not all snorers have sleep apnea. If your partner says that you snore, ask if they have ever noticed you quit breathing. A snorer who does not have OSA continues to inhale and exhale while sleeping.

Because of the inability to achieve sufficient restful sleep, a common symptom of OSA is daytime fatigue. You may be more prone to accidents and feel continuously tired and fall asleep when you don’t mean to.

Other common signs and symptoms of OSA include:

  • Insomnia
  • Morning headaches
  • Waking up gasping for air
  • Inattention or irritability during the day
  • Waking up with a dry mouth

Treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Studies indicate that once OSA is treated, blood pressure quickly returns to normal for many patients.

If you suspect OSA, you will want to seek help from someone experienced and qualified in sleep apnea disorders and treatment, such as Dr. Mickiewicz, who is a sleep medicine dentist.

Most of Dr. Mickiewicz’s patients have tremendous success with a mandibular advancement device (MAD). This custom-fitted oral device supports the jaw and maintains an open airway. Patients find the MAD very convenient and comfortable to wear.

Call (916) 469-9178 today to speak with one of our friendly team members. We can answer your questions and get you scheduled for your consultation.

Leave a Reply