Obstructive Sleep Apnea & Your Heart
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition in which you stop breathing during sleep because of a narrowed or closed airway. Obstructive sleep apnea can have a bad effect on your heart and your blood vessels.
What kinds of heart problems can I get with obstructive sleep apnea?
Several heart conditions can be caused by untreated obstructive sleep apnea:
- High blood pressure (hypertension): 30% of people with hypertension have obstructive sleep apnea. 50% of people with obstructive sleep apnea have hypertension.
- Problems with heart rhythm: These problems include atrial fibrillation (irregular heart beat) and bradycardia (slow heart rate). Patients with severe obstructive sleep apnea are four times more likely to have atrial fibrillation.
- Coronary artery disease & heart attacks: Coronary artery disease (hardening of the arteries) happens when the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to your heart become narrow. This can lead to heart attacks. People with severe obstructive sleep apnea are twice as likely to develop heart attacks. 70% of patients admitted to the hospital because of coronary artery disease have sleep apnea. People with untreated obstructive sleep apnea can develop heart failure. Obstructive sleep apnea can make heart failure worse. The chance of having obstructive sleep apnea if you have heart failure is quite high.
How does obstructive sleep apnea cause heart disease?
Obstructive sleep apnea lower blood oxygen levels. This may happen many times during sleep.
- Frequent episodes of low oxygen levels caused by obstructive sleep apnea damage the blood vessels of the heart.
- The low oxygen levels cause the heart to beat faster and elevate blood pressure.
- Severe obstructive sleep apnea can also cause stress on the heart causing heart enlargement. An enlarged heart works less efficiently.
Will treating my obstructive sleep apnea treat my heart disease?
Treating obstructive sleep apnea can help control blood pressure in hypertensive patients. It may also help control irregular heartbeats in patients with atrial fibrillation.