By Jonathan Temple, OxyMed, LLC
Many people with sleep apnea often struggle with unexplained or puzzling health issues. A visit to the doctor can become frustrating when nagging health issues seem to go unresolved. Another pill for high blood pressure or high cholesterol, even unending dieting seem to yield little or no results. Patients say, “I just don’t feel any better”. Health care professionals now more than ever are screening their patients for sleep apnea because the link between sleep apnea and these nagging or unexplained health issues is becoming increasingly clear in light of recent studies.
Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. Snoring is the number one symptom of sleep apnea. Researchers are finding many major healthcare issues are related to sleep apnea. A link exists between sleep apnea and heart failure. The two conditions commonly occur together; one study suggests that as many as 37% of people with heart failurealso have sleep apnea. A recent study suggests that treating sleep apnea may also have a beneficial effect on heart failure. Some evidence suggests that periods of sleep apnea and low blood oxygen levels, along with high blood pressure, increase the risk ofcoronary heart disease. More than half of people with sleep apnea have high blood pressure, and, unlike most people, their blood pressure levels do not fall during sleep. Sleep apnea has been shown to be an independent, treatable cause of high blood pressure. Other health issues related to sleep apnea include, diabetes, obesity, depression, headaches, and increased risk for heart attack and stroke. Below are 7 of the most prominent health issues related to sleep apnea.
1-High blood pressure. Obstructive sleep apnea can contribute to high blood pressure in people who have it. The frequent nighttime waking that plague people with sleep apnea cause hormonal systems to go into overdrive, which results in high blood pressure levels at night. Low blood-oxygen levels, caused by the cutoff of oxygen, may also contribute to hypertension in people with sleep apnea.
2-Heart disease. People with obstructive sleep apnea are more likely to suffer heart attacks and die in the middle of the night. The causes may be low oxygen or the stress of waking up often during sleep. Stroke and atrial fibrillation – a problem with the rhythm of the heartbeat — are also associated with obstructive sleep apnea. The disrupted oxygen flow caused by sleep apnea makes it hard for your brain to regulate the flow of blood in arteries and the brain itself.
3-Type 2 diabetes. Sleep apnea is very common among people with type 2 diabetes – up to 80% of diabetics have some obstructive sleep apnea. Obesity is a common risk factor for both disorders. Although studies haven’t shown a clear link between sleep apnea alone and type 2 diabetes, sleep deprivation can cause insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes.
4-Weight gain. Adding weight raises your risk of sleep apnea, and up to two-thirds of people with sleep apnea are severely overweight. Obstructive sleep apnea can often be cured if you lose enough weight, but that can be tough to do. Being overweight causes fatty deposits in the neck that block breathing at night. In turn, sleep apnea impairs the body’s endocrine systems, causing the release of the hormone ghrelin, which makes you crave carbohydrates and sweets. Also, people with sleep apnea who are tired and sleepy all the time may have lower metabolisms, which can also contribute to weight gain. Getting treatment for sleep apnea can make you feel better, with more energy for exercise and other activities.
5-Adult asthma. Although the link to obstructive sleep apnea is not proven, people who are treated for sleep apnea may find they have fewer asthma attacks.
6-GERD. There’s no proof that sleep apnea causes acid reflux, but many people with sleep apnea complain of acid reflux, and treating it seems to improve apnea symptoms.
7-Car accidents. Daytime grogginess can put people with sleep apnea at increased risk of falling asleep behind the wheel. People with sleep apnea are up to five times more likely than normal sleepers to have traffic accidents.
The increased risk for health problems linked to sleep apnea can be scary, but effective treatment for sleep apnea is available.