Sleep apnea is a condition that causes you to stop breathing for ten or more seconds during sleep. This cessation of breathing leads the patient to repeatedly wake from sleep, which often causes daytime exhaustion, difficulty concentrating, and the other commonly known side effects of sleep apnea. What many people don’t know is how the body wakes you from sleep to restart breathing. The body is awoken through a panic response that elevates blood pressure and places strain on the heart. Keep reading to learn a little more about sleep apnea and how it impacts your cardiovascular health.
Sleep Apnea & High Blood Pressure
When an apnea event occurs and the body stops breathing, the brain triggers a panic response, which causes the blood vessels to tighten up and pump the oxygen-rich blood quickly to the brain and the heart that need it the most. In the beginning, this elevated blood pressure usually only lasts through the few seconds it takes to reawaken the body, but overtime, it can lead to higher blood pressure levels even when you’re awake and breathing normally.
Sleep Apnea & Heart Health
In addition to elevated blood pressure, sleep apnea has also been linked to cardiovascular disease. The National Commission of Sleep Disorders Research found that 38,000 cardiovascular deaths occur annually as a direct result of sleep apnea. A 2001 study found that untreated obstructive sleep apnea increased the risk of heart failure by 140%, the risk of stroke by 60%, and the risk of coronary heart disease by 30%. Research is still ongoing to determine whether heart disease leads to sleep apnea or the reverse, but a connection clearly exists between the two conditions. For this reason, it’s important to treat both sleep apnea and heart disease simultaneously.
Treatment for Sleep Apnea
In order to improve sleep and reduce incidents of apnea, the airway needs to be kept free from obstruction, during sleep. The two main treatments for this condition are continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and oral appliance therapy. By treating sleep apnea, patients not only improve the quality of their sleep, but they also reduce strain on the heart and ensure the healthy, unobstructed flow oxygen throughout the body.
Meet the McCarl Dental Group Team
At the McCarl Dental Group of Greenbelt, MD, we are committed to helping our patients address not just oral health concerns but achieve better overall health as well. For those suffering from sleep apnea, we custom craft oral appliances that keep the airway clear during sleep, which can improve both the quantity and quality of sleep and help to avoid cardiovascular health concerns associated with this condition. If you want to learn more or schedule an appointment, contact the McCarl Dental Group. Our dentistry team will be happy to help.