Previous research has linked sleep apnea to an increased risk of heart problems including high blood pressure, heart attack and heart disease. The results of a new study indicate that the connection may run deeper, and that sleep apnea might actually worsen existing heart disease.

man suffering from chest pain

Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Heart Disease

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common form of sleep apnea, and it results in frequent breathing interruptions during sleep. As part of an ongoing study involving more than 1,300 individuals with heart disease, researchers found that patients with untreated OSA who underwent an angioplasty were nearly twice as likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke after the procedure as those without OSA or who were receiving sleep apnea treatment.

An angioplasty entails the use of an ultrathin catheter, which is inserted into a blocked artery via a small puncture in an arm or leg. When the catheter is in place, a tiny internal balloon is inflated to unclog the artery.

To hone in on the potential sleep apnea association, researchers adjusted their findings for factors including obesity and hypertension. Obesity and high blood pressure are common in those with sleep apnea and heart disease, whether the conditions are independent of or in conjunction with one another.

Forty-five percent of the patients included in the study were diagnosed with OSA, and 11 percent of those patients suffered a heart attack or stroke within two years following their angioplasty, or required a follow-up procedure. Twenty-four patients ultimately died. Only 8 percent of patients without sleep apnea experienced other heart problems or required another procedure post-angioplasty.

Take Sleep Apnea Risks to Heart

The research enhances our knowledge about the relationship between sleep apnea and heart disease, and it emphasizes the importance of screening heart patients for sleep apnea.

Scientists believe that obstructive sleep apnea contributes to cardiac problems because the breathing stoppages during sleep deprive the body of oxygen. This, according to a WebMD article on the OSA and heart disease study, contributes to surges in blood pressure and can damage the lining of the blood vessels, causing the blood to thicken and forcing the heart to work harder.

If you or a loved one suffers from regular snoring, frequent breathing interruptions during sleep, or a chronic sense of daytime fatigue, it’s advisable to seek a medical diagnosis as soon as possible. There are comfortable, effective sleep apnea treatments available that can help you restore restful sleep and reduce the health risks associated with sleep apnea.

Denver sleep dentist Dr. Kevin Berry has extensive success helping patients manage sleep apnea and regain healthy sleep with the use of oral appliances. To learn more or schedule your appointment, please call the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado at (303) 691-0267.