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Sleep Apnea And Hypertension: How Are They Connected?

on August 20, 2020

You may be unaware that untreated Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) can lead to the development of other serious health conditions such as cardiovascular diseases. One complication that has been found among many OSA patients is that of high blood pressure (hypertension). But how exactly are these related? 

In this article, we’ll talk about what hypertension is, the link between Sleep Apnea and heart health and the treatment options that are available to those who are suffering from high blood pressure. 

Sleep Apnea And Heart Health: What’s The Connection? 

Research studies suggest that OSA and heart problems have been closely related for years with some physicians describing them as a very dangerous pair. 

As OSA impacts an individual’s ability to breathe at night, it is normal to wonder exactly how this impacts the heart. The reality is that there are multiple factors at play here that increase a person’s chance of developing cardiovascular issues if they have untreated Sleep Apnea.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea can cause numerous side effects and secondary symptoms such as chronic fatigue, sleep deprivation and weight gain. All these factors over time can alter the heart’s ability to function optimally and can lead to a number of cardiovascular conditions such as: 

  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat)
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes

With early detection, many physicians and sleep specialists have noted that it is possible to adequately treat heart conditions onset as a result of Sleep Apnea. 

What Is Hypertension And How Is It Caused By Sleep Apnea?

Hypertension is the most commonly reported heart condition that is linked to Sleep Apnea. According to the American Heart Association, hypertension is the medical term used for when someone experiences high blood pressure

When the heart beats, it creates a pressure that pumps oxygenated blood through the circulatory system and around the body. This pressure (i.e. blood pressure) is a result of two actions: the heart pumping blood into the circulatory system and rests taken between heartbeats. If this pressure is too high, it ultimately increases the workload of the heart and blood vessels making them work less efficiently. Over time, the increased stress levels being placed on the heart can damage the tissues of the arteries. This, in turn, causes plaque to build up on artery walls and can lead to heart attacks or strokes. 

The reason that high blood pressure is more common in those with OSA is due to the fact that during an apneic event, a Sleep Apnea patient can’t receive enough oxygen to the lungs. This then causes the heart rate to drop. A signal is then sent to the brain which jerks the body awake. When this happens, it causes the heart rate to accelerate which inevitably causes blood pressure to rise. 

If this happens on a repeated basis without treatment, continued drops in blood oxygen levels will lead to chronic hypertension. 

Treatment Options For Those With Sleep Apnea And Cardiovascular Issues

The good news is that treating this sleep disorder has successfully shown signs of improving hypertension and other cardiovascular issues. 

Positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy has long been considered the gold standard for treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Studies have found that those who are compliant with Sleep Apnea therapy have noticed significant reductions in blood pressure levels. 

As PAP therapy involves the delivery of airway pressure directly to the patient in order to keep their airway passages open during sleep, it is successful in regulating oxygen levels in the blood and normalizing blood pressure levels. 

It is always recommended to get adequately assessed by a physician to determine the severity of your OSA and other underlying factors that may be contributing to hypertension. Your sleep specialist will then prescribe you with the type of PAP machine that will be most effective in treating your symptoms.

If you need help with your prescription, please reach out to our PAP therapy experts who will be happy to help guide you through all the equipment that you will need.