Serious Health Risks Associated with Untreated Sleep Apnea

Category: Sleep Health

You may not be aware that the quality of your sleep is related to your heart health. We have all heard about getting enough exercise and consuming a healthy diet to lower our risk for heart disease, but we doubt you are aware of the serious risks associated with untreated sleep apnea.

Do You Have Sleep Apnea?

The sad truth is many people don’t know they suffer from sleep apnea, and when left undiagnosed, this common condition increases your risk of cardiovascular disease.

When the airway muscles relax and collapse while you sleep, it prevents you from getting the air you need. You can actually stop breathing for a few seconds or much longer until you start breathing again. Sleep apnea affects over 20% of obese people, but it also happens to adults who have attained a perfectly health weight.

The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). When you have OSA, air can’t flow into your nose or mouth, nor can it flow out. Your body is trying to breathe, but is unable to do so because of the relaxed state of the airway muscles.

OSA is classified as mild if the person experiences 5-15 sleep interruptions per hour. To be determined as severe OSA, the individual must be dealing with greater than 30 sleep interruptions per hour.

Snoring vs Sleep Apnea

Just because you snore, does not mean you have OSA.  You can be quite an annoying snorer while still not having sleep apnea. The reverse is also true. You can be suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, but not snore at all. The telltale sign is waking up multiple times during the night when you begin to breathe again.

Man sleeping in his bed and snoring loudly

Health Risks Associated with Untreated Sleep Apnea

Not sleeping deeply, waking up multiple times from breathing interruptions during the night, and not breathing will all result in various health risks, some of which are quite serious.

Fatigue

When someone continuously wakes up at night due to breathing breaks, they are unable to attain sufficient deep sleep. Daytime fatigue can affect driving, concentration, decision making, and productivity at work or at school.

High Blood Pressure

If you already have high blood pressure, sleep apnea can make it even worse. When you continue to have your sleep disrupted, your body is stressed and begins to boost your blood pressure. Treatment for OSA can improve this medical condition quite easily.

Type 2 Diabetes

Researchers find that type 2 diabetes is common in those that have sleep apnea. Lack of sleep can prevent your body from using insulin properly as it develops an insulin resistance, which in turn leads to diabetes.

Heart Disease

Someone with OSA is more likely to have a heart attack. This fact is related to the low oxygen levels as well as the recurring stress from waking up so many times at night.

Stroke

OSA affects how your body takes in oxygen, which changes the amount of blood flowing to your arteries and your brain.

Weight Gain

This is a chicken or the egg dilemma. Sleep apnea can cause a release of unique hormones that make someone crave sweets and carbs. When you are tired all the time, you don’t have the energy to exercise, and so you may begin to gain weight. In those who are are overweight, the excess tissue in the neck can be a contributing factor to OSA.

When you seek treatment from Georgetown ENT, both of these issues can improve. With better sleep you will have the extra energy needed to exercise and lose weight.

Additional issues arising from OSA:

  • Weakened immune system and increased risk of infection from lack of sleep
  • OSA makes you more likely to have higher levels of LDL (bad cholesterol)
  • May affect sexual desire, especially in men

Treatment for OSA

A CPAP machine is one of the best ways to relieve symptoms of sleep apnea. There are several other treatments available to help patients of Georgetown ENT breathe better at night.

Contact Georgetown ENT and find out if you might be suffering from sleep apnea, and how you may be able to treat it!

As always, if you have any further questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please call (512) 869-0604 or request an appointment online today!

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