According to researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, when trying to determine the underlying causes of heart disease and high blood pressure, doctors should give a person’s sleep behavior a close look. Sleep apnea has been known to be linked to these health problems, but it was not until recently that we understood how severe the link can be.

The research shows that patients with sleep apnea and normal blood pressure are significantly more likely to develop high blood pressure within four years. During both sleep and waking periods, people with sleep apnea and no other illnesses or injuries had high activity in the parts of the nervous system that control the heart rate and blood vessel constriction. In people who do not suffer from apnea, the activity decreases when the person falls asleep, which leads to a drop in blood pressure.

People with sleep apnea tend to snore loudly and have periods throughout the night where they cease breathing, snort or gasp for breath. It is thought that the lowered variation in heart rate and greater variability in blood pressure are indicators for cardiovascular disease in people with sleep apnea.

The use of a continuous positive airway pressure device while sleeping can reduce episodes of sleep apnea. Alternately, oral appliances and surgery may be potential treatment options. To determine how to best lower your risk factors for cardiovascular disease by treating your sleep apnea, call Atlanta ENT today.