The medical risks of untreated sleep apnea reach far beyond daytime exhaustion. Research shows that people with OSA have a greater risk of high blood pressure (hypertension), heart attack and stroke – and the more severe your sleep apnea, the greater your risk.
When breathing stops due to sleep apnea, people can experience sudden drops in blood oxygen levels – this can lead to increased blood pressure and strain on the cardiovascular system. Constant nightly awakenings can also cause a hormonal system imbalance, which can lead to high blood pressure. While the root of these issues is nighttime sleep interruption, the effect on blood pressure carries over into the daytime.
Research shows that when you successfully treat sleep apnea using CPAP, people no longer experience nighttime drops in blood oxygen levels – this means lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of heart disease. This is great news for those who have sleep apnea.
CPAP therapy has also shown to be beneficial for people with atrial fibrillation, a common type of irregular heartbeat often associated with palpitations, chest pain, fainting and/or congestive heart failure. Studies show that when sleep apnea is properly treated, people with atrial fibrillation have only a 40% chance of coming back for further atrial fibrillation treatment. In the contrast, people who don’t treat their sleep apnea have an 80% chance of coming back for further treatment for their atrial fibrillation.
Research shows that CPAP therapy can lead to healthier blood pressure levels and a dramatically reduced risk of heart disease from sleep apnea. The key is to identify the symptoms early and seek treatment.
Source: Somers, Virend “Sleep Apnea and Heart Disease”. National Sleep Foundation. Web 31 March 2014.