Sleep Apnea and Heart Failure

by Dr. S. Russell Vester, MD 14. June 2014 08:15

Dr. S. Russell Vester

Sleep apnea, or, more correctly, obstructive sleep apnea is a condition that occurs during sleep. Basically your airway closes off during sleep because the soft tissues in the back of your throat collapse on themselves to the point that when you try to inhale, you can’t. Your sleeping brain keeps trying to tell your body to breathe until eventually the amount of oxygen in your system is so low and the amount of carbon dioxide is so high that your body mounts a panic response to wake you up. This panic response raises your heart rate and blood pressure as you awaken enough to finally regain control of your throat muscles so that you open up your airway and take in a breath. This happens without you ever fully regaining consciousness. You don’t even know it’s happening. The most amazing thing is that this can happen as often as every 90 seconds. No wonder individuals with this condition can "sleep" all night and wake up exhausted.


As the American epidemic of obesity expands, so does the number of people with sleep apnea. Although people with normal body weight can have this problem, the heavier a person is the more likely sleep apnea is to appear.


If left undiagnosed and untreated, the unfortunate consequence of sleep apnea is that can give rise to high blood pressure, predispose one to a greater risk of a heart attack and eventually lead to the development of heart failure and death.


Getting a good night’s sleep is more important than you think.

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