Posted on Sunday, October 1st, 2023 at 9:00 am
We all recognize the importance of a good night’s sleep. But did you know that problems with breathing during sleep can impact your heart health?
At Silent Night Therapy, we know how important quality sleep is to your health and how sleep apnea can impact all aspects of your life. We believe in sharing what we know with our patients so they can live better, healthier lives. Today, we’ll examine the link between sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease.
Sleep Apnea Is a Known Heart Health Risk
Scientists have long known that sleep apnea can cause severe heart health problems. The American Heart Association says sleep apnea, particularly obstructive sleep apnea, can lead to conditions like high blood pressure, strokes, coronary artery disease, and heart failure.
Why is sleep apnea so dangerous for your heart? When you have sleep apnea, your breathing temporarily stops or becomes shallow while you’re asleep. Every time this happens, your body goes into alert mode, which releases stress hormones. Over time, these constant alerts can cause blood pressure to rise. High blood pressure is a significant concern because it means the heart is working harder than it should, which can lead to various heart problems.
Moreover, these interruptions in breathing also reduce oxygen levels in the blood. Your heart needs a consistent supply of oxygen to function correctly. When your heart doesn’t have enough oxygen to function properly, it can lead to irregular heartbeats. These irregularities can increase the risk of more serious conditions like strokes or coronary artery disease.
New Research on Sleep Apnea and Heart Disease
A recent study from the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine looked at the connection between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and cardiovascular risks. To determine this link, researchers analyzed data from more than 4,500 middle-aged or older adults. Researchers used data from two primary sources: the Osteoporotic Fractures in Men Study (MrOS) and the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA).
The study aimed to identify specific triggers of OSA that could predict cardiovascular risks. The study examined three main OSA triggers: hypoxic burden (reduction in blood oxygen levels during sleep), ventilatory burden (breathing disruptions caused by blockages), and nighttime arousals (sudden awakenings due to breathing interruptions).
Data from the MrOS study, which followed over 2,600 men for up to 12 years, showed that 382 participants experienced a primary cardiovascular event. “Primary cardiovascular event” refers to heart attacks, strokes, etc.
Meanwhile, data from the MESA study, which observed around 1,973 men and women for seven years, showed that about 110 people experienced a similar event. The study found that MESA participants with low blood oxygen levels due to sleep apnea had a 45 percent increased risk of a cardiovascular event. This risk among patients in the MrOS group was slightly lower at 13 percent.
Furthermore, airway closures contributed to 38 percent of cardiovascular risks in MESA participants and 12 percent in MrOS patients. Surprisingly, nighttime arousals didn’t correlate with cardiovascular outcomes in MESA, but they were associated with cardiovascular-related deaths in MrOS.
What Does This Mean for You?
The bottom line is that sleep apnea is a significant risk for heart health problems. At Silent Night Therapy, we specialize in treating sleep apnea using custom-fitted oral appliances that help you breathe easier at night. These appliances are a much more comfortable alternative than a CPAP machine or other sleep apnea treatments.