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Sleep Apnea Raises Your Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death: Get the Facts

You may have heard of sleep apnea, but do you really know what it is? Far from a harmless sleep disorder that keeps you from a sound night’s rest, sleep apnea can lead to serious health complications, including sudden cardiac death.

According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. Unfortunately, 80% of cases that are moderate and severe go undiagnosed. With three convenient offices in Kirkland and Seattle, Washington, our sleep specialists at Sound Sleep Health can provide the right diagnosis.

We’ve put together some information to explain what sleep apnea is and how can you learn to recognize the risks.

Sleep Apnea Is Linked to Breathing

Simply put, sleep apnea is a sleep disorder where your breathing repeatedly starts and stops throughout the night. This respiratory event is called an apnea.

There are three main types of sleep apnea, including:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea, caused by a blockage in the airway
  • Central sleep apnea, when the brain fails to signal that breathing should occur
  • Complex sleep apnea syndrome, a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea

This breathing disruption often causes you to snore loudly, stop breathing for periods of time while you sleep, and be excessively drowsy during the day. Some people with sleep apnea awaken abruptly gasping for air, choking, or feeling short of breath.

The more severe your sleep apnea, the higher your risk for serious complications, including death.

The Risks of Sleep Apnea

Your body needs to maintain healthy oxygen levels to function properly. These levels are measured in oxygen saturation, and your numbers should be at 100% while you sleep.

When you have sleep apnea, your body doesn’t get enough oxygen, so your oxygen saturation drops. This drop in oxygen can increase your blood pressure, thereby straining your cardiovascular system and general health.

If left untreated, sleep apnea can cause such health complications as:

  • Type 2 diabetes or high blood sugar
  • Nonalcoholic liver disease
  • Abnormal cholesterol
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Stroke

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is very common in people with sleep apnea. When its present, regular drops in your blood oxygen can lead to sudden cardiac death. If you’ve had sleep apnea for up to five years, your risk of heart attack or death increases by 30%.

Is it Sleep Apnea? Know Your Risks

The most common predictors of serious health complications related to sleep apnea are age, oxygen saturation, and the number of apnea-related episodes you have per hour. While sleep apnea can affect anyone, your risks increase if you are:

Overweight

America’s obesity epidemic is leading to a wide variety of health-related conditions, including sleep apnea. If you’re overweight, your risk of having sleep apnea is four times greater than someone who’s a healthy weight.

Male

While a woman’s risk of developing sleep apnea increases after menopause, men are twice as likely to have sleep apnea.

Over 40

As your body ages, normal changes take place in your brain that manages your breathing during sleep. Physical changes that can obstruct your breathing also occur, like the buildup of fatty tissues in the tongue and neck.

Congested

Whether your difficulty breathing through your nose is from allergies or anatomical problems, your risk of developing sleep apnea is higher.

A smoker

Your chances of a sleep apnea diagnosis are three times higher if you smoke. This might be due to disruptions in the upper airways caused from inflammation and fluid retention.

Maintaining an unhealthy diet and living a sedentary lifestyle without sufficient physical activity or exercise also increase your risks of sleep apnea.

If you suspect that you or someone you love has sleep apnea, get treatment immediately to reduce your risk of serious health complications or death. At Sound Sleep Health, we can help. Call the office or book a consultation online to learn more about sleep studies, diagnosis, and treatment of sleep apnea.

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