It’s no secret that sleep apnea interferes with your ability to get quality rest. However, this disorder jeopardizes your health in even more ways, especially your heart.
Unfortunately, many people with sleep apnea either don’t realize they have the condition or put off treatment, thinking it isn’t very serious. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Dr. Vandana Kumra can help diagnose and treat sleep apnea at ENT New York in New York City. If you’ve been putting off an appointment, she recommends taking action in February in honor of American Heart Month.
If you have sleep apnea, here’s how proper management can protect your heart.
The problem with sleep apnea
With a name like “sleep apnea,” it’s safe to assume the condition involves sleep. However, the most significant problem with this disorder is that an “apnea” means you stop breathing, often for at least 10 seconds. Worse yet, it usually happens frequently throughout your sleep cycle.
This disorder has different forms, but the most common occurs when the soft tissue at the back of the throat relaxes. When this happens, it blocks the airway, which interferes with your ability to breathe.
Signs of sleep apnea often include:
- Gasping or loud snoring
- Morning headaches
- Excessive fatigue or daytime drowsiness
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering things
- Mood issues like irritability, depression, and anxiety
Most of the time, people focus on these aspects of sleep apnea. However, not getting enough oxygen can also take a toll on your heart.
Sleep apnea and heart health
When a person has sleep apnea, they can stop breathing repeatedly — sometimes up to 30 times in a single hour.
Each time you stop breathing, oxygen levels in your body drop. In response, your system produces adrenaline, a stress hormone associated with the “fight-or-flight” response. While that hormone may save you from danger, it can also damage your health.
When your body releases this hormone, it causes your blood pressure to surge. When this happens repeatedly, it can damage the lining of the delicate blood vessels in your heart.
On top of that, these sleep disturbances also elevate “bad” LDL cholesterol and other blood fats in your system.
Together, these changes can clog the arteries and lead to poor heart muscle function.
Studies show that people with unmanaged sleep apnea have twice the risk of a heart attack than those without the disorder. They also have higher rates of high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and stroke.
Treating and managing sleep apnea
Dr. Kumra understands that people often put off a doctor’s visit, especially for problems like sleep apnea. However, she’s reminding people this February to do it for their overall health and in recognition of American Heart Month.
You can rest assured that a sleep apnea assessment is painless. Dr. Kumra starts with a head and neck evaluation. She also examines the inside of your throat for structural issues that can trigger the disorder.
Based on her findings, Dr. Kumra could recommend a sleep study. In the past, these often required a special sleep clinic. However, advanced testing makes it possible for 60-70% of these screenings to occur in the home these days.
Once Dr. Kumra reaches a diagnosis, she can outline the best steps moving forward. For instance, she could suggest surgery if you have a sinus or throat issue causing your symptoms. However, a more common treatment for this sleep disorder involves a CPAP device, which delivers a constant air supply while you sleep.
Do you have sleep apnea? Take steps to protect your heart this month. Schedule a consultation with Dr. Vandana Kumra at ENT New York today.