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Published on February 19, 2019

Just a Snore or Something More? How Sleep Apnea Affects Your Heart Health

How Sleep Apnea Affects Your Heart

We all know what it’s like to get your day started without enough sleep. Your head feels foggy, your feet drag and you’re more forgetful than usual. Getting a full night’s rest is important for good health, but if you have sleep apnea, it can be a challenge to feel well-rested. And fatigue isn’t the only cause for concern - sleep apnea greatly increases your risk for serious heart disorders and other health issues.

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which you repeatedly stop breathing while you are sleeping. There are two types of this disorder:

  1. Obstructive sleep apnea, which is caused by a blockage in your airway. This is the most common type.
  2. Central sleep apnea, which occurs when your brain fails to send the signal to breathe to your muscles while you sleep.

This disorder impacts many aspects of your well-being, and one of the most serious affects it has is on your heart health. This study reports that sleep apnea can increase your risk for heart failure by 140% and your risk of coronary heart disease by 30%. In addition, it can also increase your risk of a heart attack because of the strain it puts on your cardiovascular system.

You may also be at higher risk for other serious health conditions, including:

What are the symptoms of sleep apnea? Extreme fatigue is the most common sign, but there are other symptoms you should look for as well:

  • In adults, extreme fatigue during the day; in children, hyperactivity during the day and bed wetting at night.
  • Frequent loud snoring.
  • Gasping for air while sleeping or waking up choking or gasping.
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep.
  • Waking up frequently during the night, usually to use the bathroom.
  • Difficulty paying attention, concentrating and remembering.
  • Irritability or mood swings.
  • Headaches and dry mouth.
  • Decreased interest in sex or sexual dysfunction.

Both adults and children can develop this disorder, but you may be at higher risk if you are overweight, have high blood pressure, have diabetes, smoke, have a family history of sleep apnea or have asthma.

Sleep apnea is a serious disease, but it can be treated. Making healthy lifestyle changes such as exercising more, losing weight if overweight and stop drinking alcohol should help treat the disorder while also boosting your heart health. If you suspect you or a loved one has sleep apnea, reach out to your health care provider for guidance towards better heart health and a peaceful night’s sleep.

About the Author

Traci Turner, MDTraci Turner, MD specializes in General Cardiology, Echocardiography and Cardiac Catheterization and is board certified in Sleep Medicine with Cone Health Medical Group HeartCare at Church Street