How Sleep Apnea Can Affect Your Blood Pressure

How Sleep Apnea Can Affect Your Blood Pressure

Sleep apnea is a disorder that prevents you from getting restful sleep, often causing daytime drowsiness, irritation, and forgetfulness. Did you know, though, that it can also have a significant impact on your blood pressure?

The board-certified specialists at Premier Cardiology Consultants, known for providing the highest-quality cardiac care available from locations throughout New York City, explain the ways that sleep apnea affects your blood pressure and heart health.

Understanding sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the most common type of sleep apnea, affects about 30% of adults in the United States, according to the American Lung Association.

OSA occurs when muscles at the back of your throat relax and collapse inward as you sleep. This obstructs your airway and temporarily prevents you from breathing. The lack of oxygen switches your brain into panic mode, triggering the portion of your nervous system that controls involuntary reflexes to wake you long enough to take a breath.

Individuals with OSA may snore loudly, become quite restless during sleep, and take deep, gasping breaths. However, they rarely awaken fully during these episodes that can occur as many as 30 times an hour throughout the night.

How does OSA affect your blood pressure?

When your breathing slows or stops, your heart rate drops. During an OSA episode, the adrenaline surge and other reactions triggered by your nervous system as you try to breathe cause your heart rate to accelerate quickly. This causes an abrupt rise in blood pressure. When you experience frequent apneic episodes, your blood pressure remains chronically elevated.

Long-term effects of persistently elevated blood pressure (hypertension) increase your risk of:

Left untreated, OSA is also known to increase your risk of:

OSA can also cause complications with general anesthesia and may compromise your ability to breathe following surgery.

What is the treatment for sleep apnea?

Likely the most familiar treatment for OSA is continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP therapy. With CPAP, a bedside machine delivers a continuous stream of air through a mask that you wear while sleeping. The air pressure keeps your upper airway passages open and prevents apnea.

Other treatments for sleep apnea include oral appliances worn at night that shift your lower jaw forward slightly. This helps prevent muscles and other soft tissue structures at the back of your throat from collapsing.

Depending on the cause of apnea, surgery to remove excess tissue or reposition your lower jaw may be recommended for moderate-to-severe apnea that doesn’t respond to other therapies.

If you’re struggling with elevated blood pressure and would like expert help at bringing it under control, schedule a visit at Premier Cardiology Consultants today.

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