Sleep Apnea Increases Risk of Heart Attack
Sleep apnea is a common problem in today’s world. This sleep disorder increases a persons’ risk of having a heart attack or dying by 30% over a period of 4-5 years, according to a new study. The more severe the sleep apnea, the greater the risk of developing heart disease or dying. Obesity is a risk factor as well as large tonsils and adenoids and a thick palate.
In obstructive sleep apnea or OSA, the upper airway narrows or collapses during sleep. Periods of apnea or no breathing, end with a brief partial wake-up that disrupts sleep hundreds of times each night. Sleep apnea triggers the body’s “fight or flight” mechanism, which decreases the amount of blood pumped to the heart. Repeated episodes every night for years can starve the heart and brain of enough oxygen to do damage.
Those eventually diagnosed with sleep apnea are those who snore terribly and who are very restless at night. Most of the time, the patient is sent to the doctor by a spouse or family member who are losing sleep due to the snoring! Also, we have noted those who have had heart attacks may have sleep apnea. The constant decreased oxygen level damages the heart and caused arrhythmias and heart damage.
The testing done to diagnose sleep apnea is a sleep study test. You spend the night in a sleep area with electrodes or wires connected to you. The technician monitors your oxygen saturation and other sleep indicators while you sleep, thus alerting them to the diagnosis. It is not unusual for the patient’s oxygen saturation to drop from a normal 90% or above to 40-50% during their sleep due to sleep apnea. This causes oxygen deprivation to the heart as well as the brain and other vital organs. It also causes sleepiness and exhaustion when you wake, as you are getting the benefit of good sleep and relaxation.
The most effective treatment for sleep apnea is nasal CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure). This device delivers continuous pressure through the mask to keep the airway open while the patient sleeps. It has proven successful in many cases in providing effective sleep. This prevents daytime sleepiness and improves the patients quality of life- they also report more alertness and energy as well!
If you are showing signs of sleep apnea, see you physician at once. He can refer you to our sleep study department, here at BCHC, to schedule your study. It may save your life!