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Can Sleep Apnea Lead to High Blood Pressure?

Can Sleep Apnea Lead to High Blood Pressure?

By Marianna Kovitch, D.M.D., DABDSM

Yes! Sleep apnea increases an individual’s risk of high blood pressure. Not only is the risk of hypertension higher, but the increased strain on the cardiovascular system caused by sleep apnea can lead to other heart problems. Patients may experience a higher rate of heart attack and stroke.

Sleep apnea causes more than annoying snoring and interrupted sleep; it is a serious medical condition that requires professional intervention. However, addressing sleep apnea can improve your health and quality of life.

What is Hypertension?
Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. Blood pressure refers to the measurement of the force against the walls of blood vessels from blood circulating in the body. The measure includes the volume of blood pumped and the resistance to the blood flow in your arteries.

When blood pumps through a smaller space, blood pressure increases, which causes hypertension. The increased pressure can damage arteries over time. Doctors typically treat high blood pressure with prescription medication and recommend changes to diet and exercise for obese patients.

Why Does Sleep Apnea Impact Blood Pressure?
Obstructive sleep apnea causes the level of oxygen in the blood to drop. When blood oxygen levels drop, blood vessels constrict. The narrowing of the blood vessels makes it harder to move blood through the body, leading to increased blood pressure.

In people without sleep apnea, blood pressure typically drops during sleep. However, those suffering from sleep apnea do not experience this needed nightly decrease in blood pressure. Instead, their blood pressure goes higher, causing their heart to work harder while they sleep.

What Are the Health Risks of Increased Blood Pressure?
Some patients with high blood pressure show no noticeable symptoms. If you suffer from sleep apnea, keep a check on your blood pressure. Even if you don’t have the common symptoms associated with hypertension, you can still experience the health risks related to high blood pressure.

The most severe risk from high blood pressure is a heart attack or stroke. However, vision loss, kidney failure, impotence and heart disease can result from high blood pressure.

How Can Patients Lower Their Health Risks?
If you have high blood pressure because of sleep apnea, there’s hope. While your medical doctor can treat the high blood pressure, you won’t address the root cause until you deal with the sleep apnea. For as long as your sleep apnea is unresolved, you’ll continue to experience side effects, like fatigue, memory loss and hypertension.

Obese patients with obstructive sleep apnea may see positive results with weight loss. For a quicker solution, sleep apnea interventions improve sleep and reduce the negative health impacts.

CPAP machines work by providing continuous airflow through the nose. The pressure keeps the airway open to prevent lapses in breathing. The patient wears a mask attached to a machine during sleep.

For patients who do not feel comfortable wearing masks during sleep or prefer an alternative intervention, oral appliances offer a solution. Custom dental appliances open the airway to prevent snoring and improve
nighttime breathing.

Read more from Atlanta Smiles on the benefits of an oral appliance over a CPAP machine here.

At Atlanta Smiles, our dental team designs dental appliances to meet each patient’s specific needs. We work with you to achieve the results you need to lower your risk of high blood pressure and get a good night’s sleep.

Marianna Kovitch, D.M.D., is a diplomate of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine (DABDSM). Dr. Kovitch received her Doctor of Dental Medicine from the Medical College of Georgia after earning her Bachelor of Science with honors in chemistry as well as recognition in research publications for her work in biochemistry from Georgia State University. Dr. Kovitch has been an active board member of the Academy of General Dentistry since 2013 and has been a contributor to the development of dentistry excellence in Georgia.

Marianna Kovitch, D.M.D., DABDSM • Atlanta Smiles • • 404.262.7733


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