High Blood Pressure and Sleep Apnea: Is There Cause for Alarm?
High blood pressure is a serious medical condition that can lead to a host of health problems, including hardening of the arteries, stroke, heart attack, and congestive heart failure. It's a condition that affects nearly 1 in 3 Americans and has a $46 billion dollar annual impact on the US economy. One question that is often raised is whether high blood pressure can be caused by snoring or sleep apnea.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep-related breathing disorder, which occurs when air does not flow freely during inhalation and exhalation. This is often caused by abnormal anatomical structure, being overweight, or other factors. When air meets resistance passing through the airways, tissues in the airway vibrate against one another, producing snoring. In the most severe cases, sleep apnea results in an airway collapse, resulting in occasional breathing cessation. People who suffer from sleep apnea often exhibit high blood pressure and and may require prescription medications to keep it under control.
Is There a Relationship Between High Blood Pressure, Sleep Apnea, and Snoring?
It's important to note that the relationship between high blood pressure and sleep apnea is not always clear-cut. While snoring can be a precursor to sleep apnea, it is possible to suffer from sleep apnea without snoring, or to snore without sleep apnea. That being said, there is a connection between sleep apnea and high blood pressure, and understanding how this connection works can help treat high blood pressure.
When a person with sleep apnea stops breathing, their blood oxygen levels drop dramatically. The body responds by sending a surge of adrenaline, causing the heart rate to rise and respiration to increase. This can lead to a chain of events that results in a spike in blood pressure. Consequently, those who suffer from high blood pressure are encouraged to speak with their doctor about the possibility of sleep apnea.
How Can I Treat High Blood Pressure Caused by Sleep Apnea?
If sleep apnea is causing your high blood pressure, it is best to treat the root cause, instead of medicating the symptoms. Traditional treatments involve the use of a CPAP machine, a device that provides a continual influx of air pressure to maintain the airways. As this is not always convenient, some people opt for a mandibular advancement device that works by keeping the airways open while sleeping.
It is also important to consider lifestyle changes that might help improve sleep apnea symptoms. Sleeping on one's side and avoiding alcohol or caffeine in the evening are two common measures. Additionally, weight loss can reduce snoring and sleep apnea symptoms. In many cases, high blood pressure will lower once sleep apnea is treated.
Simply stated, snoring may be a sign of sleep apnea, and sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure which can lead to serious health problems. If you are suffering from high blood pressure, it is important to speak to your doctor about the possibility of sleep apnea as a cause. Treating the root cause of the problem can help reduce, or eliminate, the need for blood pressure medication.