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Sleep Apnea and Your Heart: Understanding the Connection & Risks

by | Feb 29, 2024

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a common sleep disorder characterized by repetitive pauses in breathing during sleep due to blocked or narrowed airways. While OSA is often associated with disrupted sleep patterns and daytime fatigue, its impact extends beyond sleep disturbances. At SleepWell Louisiana, a leading sleep apnea treatment clinic in Lafayette, Louisiana, we recognize the critical link between OSA and cardiovascular health. In this blog, we’ll dive into the connection between OSA and heart health, the risks associated with untreated OSA, and practical steps to maintain a healthy heart while managing OSA.

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) occurs when the muscles at the back of the throat relax excessively during sleep, causing the airway to collapse or become blocked. This results in breathing pauses, known as apneas, which can last for seconds to minutes and occur multiple times throughout the night. These apneas “generally last at least 10 seconds and occur frequently throughout the night.” OSA disrupts normal sleep patterns and reduces the flow of oxygen to vital organs, including the heart and brain. It is estimated that nearly “one billion adults worldwide have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is more common in men and overweight people.”

Untreated OSA and the Risk of Heart Failure or Cardiovascular Disease:

Untreated OSA poses a significant risk to heart health, as it can lead to a range of cardiovascular conditions, including hypertension, coronary artery disease, stroke, and heart failure. The repeated cycles of oxygen deprivation and arousal from sleep puts consistent stress on the cardiovascular system. This stress contributes to inflammation, oxidative stress, and endothelial dysfunction. Over time, these physiological changes can damage blood vessels, increase blood pressure, and raise the risk of cardiovascular events. Research shows that OSA is “linked to higher rates of high blood pressurestroke, and coronary artery disease. There’s also evidence that sleep apnea can cause left ventricular diastolic dysfunction, which increases the risk of heart failure.” 

What to Do if You Have OSA?

If you suspect you have OSA or have been diagnosed with the condition, it’s imperative to seek treatment from a qualified sleep specialist. At SleepWell Louisiana, our team offers comprehensive sleep apnea testing and personalized treatment plans tailored to each patient’s needs. Our preferred approach to OSA management is oral appliance therapy, a non-invasive alternative to CPAP machines that effectively treat mild to moderate OSA by repositioning the jaw and keeping the airway open during sleep.

Ways to Keep Your Heart Healthy with OSA:

In addition to seeking treatment for OSA, there are several lifestyle modifications you can make to support heart health while managing the condition:

  • Maintain a Healthy Weight: Excess weight, particularly around the neck, can exacerbate OSA symptoms. Adopting a balanced diet and regular exercise routine can help reduce weight and improve sleep quality.
  • Avoid Alcohol and Sedatives: Alcohol and sedatives can relax the muscles in the throat, increasing the likelihood of airway obstruction during sleep. Limiting alcohol consumption and avoiding sedatives before bedtime can help minimize OSA symptoms.
  • Avoid Smoking: “Tobacco products can impact your blood pressure and cause plaque buildup in the arteries, it is best to seriously limit your use or avoid all together.”
  • Practice Good Sleep Hygiene: Establish a consistent sleep schedule, create a relaxing bedtime routine, and optimize your sleep environment to promote restful sleep. Avoiding electronic devices and stimulating blue light activities before bed can also help improve sleep quality.
  • Follow Up with Your Sleep Specialist: Regular follow-up appointments with your sleep specialist are essential for monitoring OSA treatment effectiveness and adjusting therapy as needed. Be sure to communicate any changes in symptoms or concerns with your healthcare provider.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of OSA or have concerns about your sleep health, don’t hesitate to contact SleepWell Louisiana for expert sleep apnea testing and treatment. An added benefit to “treating your sleep apnea will not only help lower your heart disease risk, but it will also help you get a more restful night’s sleep.” Our compassionate team is dedicated to helping you achieve better sleep and improved heart health. Schedule your consultation today and take the first step towards a healthier, happier life!


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