Sleep Apnea and Heart Disease
- People with untreated sleep apnea are 3 times more likely to have heart disease.
- Up to 70% of patients admitted to the hospital because of coronary artery disease were found to have sleep apnea.
- 23% of the morbidity of certain heart diseases are associated with sleep apnea and could possibly be eliminated if the sleep apnea were eliminated.
How is sleep apnea related to heart disease?
During an apnea event (pause in breathing) the oxygen levels in your body drop significantly. The brain partially wakes from sleep to send signals to the nervous system to constrict the blood vessels (tighten up) in order to increase the flow of oxygen to your heart and brain. Therefore, blood pressure increases at night to keep oxygen flowing to your heart and brain. For patients who do not have sleep apnea, their blood pressure drops ten to twenty percent during sleep. Whereas, patients with sleep apnea demonstrate an increase in blood pressure of ten to twenty percent.
The increased blood pressure during sleep frequently begins to overlap into periods of wakefulness. Although, blood pressure only needs to be increased at night for apnea patients when they require extra respiratory effort to get oxygen, these patients oftenend up with increased blood pressure at all times.
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, heart attack, and many other medical problems, and sleep apnea is a major risk for high blood pressure.
One study found that men with severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea were 58% more likely to develop new congestive heart failure than men without sleep apnea. They also found that men aged 40-70 with an apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) of 30 or higher were 68% more likely to develop coronary heart disease than those with lower AHIs.
Treatment for sleep apnea can aid in lowering overall blood pressure.