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Can Sleep Apnea Lead To A Heart Attack?

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Sleep apnea is a irregular breathing pattern caused by collapse of soft tissue in the throat or when brain fails to signal muscles responsible for breathing or mix of both. Lack of oxygen can increase risk of heart attack. Avoid smoking, sleep on your side, clear nasal congestion before going to bed, use cervical pillows, or use oral devices that prevent blockage.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

A disorder that is characterized by irregularities in breathing patterns when asleep. It could be uneven intervals between breaths, shallow or shortness in breath. The interval and intensity may vary and might be accompanied with snorts or chokes. It is bound to cause disturbed sleep, making you tired during the day and even increasing daytime sleepiness.

Sleep Apnea can be classified into three categories according to what causes it.

1. Obstructive Sleep Apnea

This is when there is a blockage preventing smooth air flow. It usually occurs when the soft tissue in the throat collapses and closes while sleeping. It restricts the amount of air entering the lungs and creates a irregular breathing pattern.

2. Central  Sleep Apnea

Here the brain fails to signal the muscles responsible for breathing to function. This creates a lack of oxygen for a few seconds or even minutes, before the brain disturbs sleep (partially) to restore breathing.

3. Mixed Sleep Apnea

This is a mix of both and is to be taken more seriously. This also disturbs sleep patterns, causing poor quality of sleep and increasing daytime fatigue.

Sleep Apnea And Heart Connection

Skipping breaths means your body is getting a lesser amount of oxygen than it should. This exerts pressure on the heart to pump more blood than usual to the body, thereby increasing blood pressure. This lack of adequate oxygen supply for 8-9 hours can increase stroke, cardiovascular dysfunction and hypoxemia (low blood oxygen) risk. These factors collectively aid to the increased risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks.

Several studies show that the incidence of heart attacks in people suffering from sleep apnea is very high.1 Another study pointed out how obstructive sleep apnea was more common, both in general and in heart attack victims.2

Sleep apnea also further reduces the chance of surviving a heart attack. A study that monitored around fifty patients suffering from sleep apnea showed that hypoxemia induced by sleep apnea exaggerates the insufficiency of oxygen to cardiac muscles, causing them to fail.3

Treatments and Remedies

Though treatments can vary based on the type and severity of your condition, a few lifestyles changes, sleeping positions can provide immediate relief. In case symptoms still persist then supportive devices or surgery might be warranted. Some remedies that work well on patients suffering from sleep apnea:

1. Limit Alcohol and Smoking

Both tend to relax muscles, which may block the airways for breathing. Alcohol also causes dehydration, making your heart pump more blood due to the lack of oxygen, similar to the effects of sleep apnea.

2. Sleeping Position

Sleeping on your side can reduce the chances of creating a blockage or the throat muscle collapsing and exerting pressure on the pharynx. Use cervical pillows for sleep as they help position the head to support uninterrupted breathing and reduce sleep apnea.

3. Eliminate Congestion

Be sure to clear any nose or chest congestion before going to bed. Congestion will worsen the effects of sleep apnea and cause night sweats. Try natural methods like jal neti using Neti pot or saline water to remove obstructions in the air passages.

4. Oral Appliances

These popular mouth pieces are designed to prevent snoring, sleep apnea and any sort of airway blockage. These are deemed safe by the American Academy Of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and can be custom made by your dentist.

References   [ + ]

1.Javaheri, S., et al. “Sleep apnea in 81 ambulatory male patients with stable heart failure Types and their prevalences, consequences, and presentations.” Circulation 97.21 (1998): 2154-2159.
2.Kaneko, Yasuyuki, et al. “Cardiovascular effects of continuous positive airway pressure in patients with heart failure and obstructive sleep apnea.”New England Journal of Medicine 348.13 (2003): 1233-1241.
3.Saito, Toshiyuki, et al. “Sleep apnea in patients with acute myocardial infarction.” Critical care medicine 19.7 (1991): 938-941.
CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.

CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.