The Connection Between Sleep Apnea and High Blood Pressure
May is Blood Pressure Month, and it's the perfect time to talk about the link between sleep apnea and high blood pressure. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor may have mentioned sleep apnea as a potential cause. In this article, we will explore how sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure and what you can do to prevent it.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing is repeatedly interrupted during sleep. This happens when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open, causing the person to briefly wake up in order to take a breath. These disruptions can occur hundreds of times per night, leading to poor sleep quality and other health problems.
How does sleep apnea cause high blood pressure?
Repeated interruptions to breathing during sleep can cause a number of physiological changes that contribute to high blood pressure. One of the main ways sleep apnea causes high blood pressure is by increasing the levels of stress hormones in the body, such as cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones cause the blood vessels to constrict, which increases blood pressure.
Additionally, repeated waking throughout the night can cause a disruption in the normal pattern of blood pressure fluctuations during sleep. Normally, blood pressure drops at night, but with sleep apnea, it may remain elevated, leading to sustained high blood pressure over time.
What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may have sleep apnea:
- Loud snoring
- Gasping or choking during sleep
- Daytime sleepiness or fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating or memory problems
- Morning headaches
- Irritability or mood changes
How is sleep apnea diagnosed and treated?
If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, it's important to speak with your doctor. They may recommend a sleep study, which can be done in a lab or at home, to diagnose the condition.
Once diagnosed, there are several treatment options available, including:
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine, which delivers a steady stream of air to keep the airway open during sleep.
Oral appliances, which reposition the jaw to keep the airway open.
Surgery, in severe cases where other treatments have been unsuccessful.
How can you prevent high blood pressure caused by sleep apnea?
If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, there are several things you can do to prevent high blood pressure and other health problems:
1. Use your prescribed treatment regularly: Whether it's a CPAP machine or an oral appliance, using it as prescribed can help prevent the physiological changes that lead to high blood pressure.
2. Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight is a risk factor for both sleep apnea and high blood pressure. Losing weight can improve symptoms of sleep apnea and reduce blood pressure.
3. Quit smoking: Smoking can cause the blood vessels to constrict and raise blood pressure, so quitting smoking can help reduce blood pressure and improve overall health.
4. Manage stress: Stress can increase levels of stress hormones, which can raise blood pressure. Finding healthy ways to manage stress, such as exercise or meditation, can help reduce blood pressure and improve sleep quality.
If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, it's important to speak with your doctor and get a proper diagnosis. With treatment and lifestyle changes, it's possible to prevent the physiological changes that lead to high blood pressure and improve overall health.