The Dangers of Sleep Apnea: What it’s Doing to Your Heart & How to Treat It

While you may think snoring is benign, it can actually have a significantly detrimental effect on your health. When snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea, you’ve got a serious problem. It can even lead to health issues like heart disease and diabetes. There are things you can do to treat sleep apnea though.

CPAP Device

Types of Sleep Apnea

The most common form of sleep apnea is OSA, or obstructive sleep apnea. This is caused by a blockage of one’s airwaves, often by soft tissue in the back of the throat. There’s also central sleep apnea, which is less common. CSA typically occurs in those who’ve suffered from a stroke, been diagnosed with brain tumors, heart failure, or an infection.

Risk Factors

While sleep apnea can affect anyone of any age, there are several things that can increase your risk. These include being overweight, diabetic, male, over the age of 40, or having a family history of sleep apnea. Those with a large neck, tonsils, or tongue or a small jaw bone may also be at greater risk. People with GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux, are also more likely to have sleep apnea. Likewise, folks with nasal obstruction due to sinuses, allergies, or a deviated septum may also have an increased risk.

What It Does

With sleep apnea, an individual experiences sleep-disordered breathing wherein less oxygen reaches the heart. This, of course, can be incredibly damaging to your health. When the heart is strained and has to pump harder in order to support the lungs, it can become strained. This can lead to high blood pressure and increase one’s risk of heart failure, stroke, and arrhythmias. Sleep apnea should not be left untreated for these reasons.

At Home Treatment Options

There are several ways in which doctors can treat sleep apnea, as well as things you can do yourself. First off, here are steps you can take at home.

For starters, if you’re overweight, losing weight can have a significant positive impact on your overall health. As such, it’s an important part in managing sleep apnea. Also, you should limit your use of alcohol and certain medications, especially sleeping pills and sedatives. If you’re a smoker, quitting smoking should also be a top priority. If you have other breathing problems, like those perhaps caused by allergies, those should be treated as well.

Ensure you’re getting plenty of sleep and also try sleeping on your side. Additionally, you might try raising the head of your bed by four to six inches. For this, you can use a special pillow called a cervical pillow.

Other Treatments

In addition to taking care of yourself, your doctor can also help. For many people who suffer from sleep apnea, a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) device is often recommended. This breathing machine can stop your airways from becoming blocked when you’re asleep. Other, alternative devices include BPAP (Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure) or ASV (Adaptive Servo-ventilation) machines.

If your sleep apnea is caused by another underlying health condition, a doctor can also help treat those as well.

In some cases, surgery may be necessary. This can be done to either increase the size of your airway or to remove tonsils, adenoids, or excess tissue.