How Sleep Apnea Affects Your Heart - Cardiology Associates of Michigan - Michigan's Best Heart Doctors
For more information about how sleep apnea affects your heart, make an appointment to see one of our heart doctors in Macomb County or St. Clair County.

How Sleep Apnea Affects Your Heart

Sleep apnea is a condition that the general public hears about, but that many people don’t quite understand. They know the general idea that it relates to irregular breathing, but why it occurs and how sleep apnea affects your heart can be a mystery.

If you suffer from sleep apnea, it’s important to seek treatment, as the condition can lead to a variety of more serious health issues, including cardiovascular problems.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea occurs when airflow is repeatedly stopped during sleep, causing the individual to wake up frequently during the night.

People often confuse sleep apnea with snoring, but they are different. It is true that snoring can be a sign of the disorder, but not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. The main difference is that someone who has sleep apnea literally stops breathing and then gasps for air, and this can be repeated hundreds of times during the course of one night’s sleep.

As a result of this sleep-wake process, someone who has the condition often feels exhausted during the day.

Possible causes of the disorder include:

  • Obesity
  • Neuromuscular disorders
  • Kidney failure
  • Heart failure
  • Having large tonsils
  • Certain genetic factors

How Sleep Apnea Affects Your Heart

The relationship between sleep apnea and heart conditions is not completely clear. Whether sleep apnea leads to cardiovascular problems or cardiovascular problems lead to sleep apnea is debatable.

Either way, there is a strong correlation between people with high blood pressure and those who suffer from sleep apnea. High blood pressure strains your heart and blood vessels, increasing your risk of a heart attack, stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, and possibly some forms of dementia.

The relationship is likely due to the fact that your oxygen level drops when you are not breathing. To protect itself, the body then releases a stress hormone known as epinephrine or adrenaline. When adrenaline levels remain high, this can lead to high blood pressure.

According to various studies, a majority of people who have cardiovascular disease also have sleep apnea, and researchers estimate that untreated sleep apnea might raise the risk of dying from heart disease by up to five times.

Another important correlation to note is that about half of the patients who have atrial fibrillation also have sleep apnea. AFib is an irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure, and other heart conditions.

Can Treating Sleep Apnea Improve Cardiovascular Health?

Here’s the good news: Research shows that sleep apnea treatment can lead to lower blood pressure. Treatment of the condition may include healthy lifestyle changes, surgical procedures, orofacial therapy, the use of mouthpieces, or the use of a breathing device, frequently a positive airway pressure machine.

Your cardiologist is often the first doctor to recognize sleep apnea symptoms, and will likely refer you to a sleep disorder specialist, neurologist, pulmonologist, or otolaryngologist. As a result, your cardiologist and the specialist will work hand-in-hand with a goal of improving your overall health.

If you are concerned about your cardiovascular health or want to know more about how sleep apnea affects your heart, make an appointment to see one of our heart doctors in Roseville, Shelby Township, East China, or Macomb Township.


Contact us at Cardiology Associates of Michigan to learn more about how sleep apnea affects your heart or to make an appointment with one of our cardiologists in Shelby Township, Roseville, East China, or Macomb Township.