Sleep Apnea | Relationship With Other Medical Problems

Relationship Of Sleep Apnea With Medical Problems

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder and it should be taken lightly, nor something that will go away on its own with time.

In fact sleep apnea is classified as being a “progressive disease” which means that just like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease it gets worse with time.

There is a lot of debate in the medical community about the effect that sleep apnea has on other medical problems. There is a definite connection between sleep apnea and these physical conditions such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Heart failure
  • Heart attack
  • Kidney failure
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Stroke

More and more research is looking into why the above conditions are related to problems erupting in the upper airways of a person suffering from sleep apnea.

It is well known that abusing alcohol, being overweight and smoking plays a role in sleep apnea and in turn leads to a greater possibility of developing heart disease and hypertension.

However it is not clear while some people who do not have any of these problems concerning their lifestyle still develop sleep apnea.

When there is a cessation of breathing during a sleep apnea episode the bloodstream shows higher levels of carbon dioxide while oxygen levels decrease. As a result of this, a series of chemical and physical events takes place in the body that then increases the risk of other problems arising in the body.

Sleep Apnea And Hypertension

In the past the connection between sleep apnea and hypertension was believed to be strongly linked to obesity. However recent studies are pointing to other findings, which is that hypertension is particularly high in individuals who suffer from sleep apnea no matter what their weight is.

High Blood Pressure And Sleep Apnea

Many studies have been conducted to look at high blood pressure and sleep apnea. A link has been found between the two. To give an example, a study done in 2000 examined patients over a four year period and showed that the more apnea episodes they experienced in the first year, the greater risk was posed for them to develop hypertension by the third or fourth year. Even in those who snored or experienced mild sleep apnea there was a “weak but still higher than normal association with high blood pressure.”

Blood pressure affects sleep apnea because it fluctuates tremendously during repeated sleep apnea episodes. These fluctuations are also related to changes in the form of sudden surges that take place in the sympathetic nervous system.

The sympathetic nervous system “controls involuntary muscles, highly those in the blood vessels and heart.” It is strongly believed that as time passes, these fluctuations could play a significant role in the development of permanent long-term hypertension.

Sleep Apnea, And TNF-Alpha And IL-6

In overweight sleep apnea sufferers, experts have discovered that they have high levels of immune factors known as tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and interleukin 6 (IL-6). High levels of both of these factors can cause serious inflammation in the body which can lead to cell damage, particularly in the arteries.

In one specific study it was shown that people with elevated levels of TNF-alpha suffered from excessive tiredness, shortness of breath and a “weak heart-pumping action.” However it must be said that to date no “clear causal relationship” between obstructive sleep apnea and heart disease has been scientifically established.

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