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Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder characterized by brief but repetitive interruptions of breathing during sleep. It may be an underlying cause of heart disease. Researchers believe that the lack of oxygen that occurs during sleep apnea can cause an increase in blood pressure, which can stress your heart and increase the amount of sugar in your blood. Sleep apnea can worsen existing cardiovascular disease. Sleep apnea occurs in all age groups and both genders. Sleep apnea often goes unrecognized for many years due to lack of specific symptoms.
There are three types of sleep apnea:
Research shows that treatment of sleep apnea improves heart function and decreases the risk of coronary events and stroke. More research is needed to determine the exact relationship between sleep apnea and heart disease. Some studies show that patients with sleep apnea are at increased risk for ventricular arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) and nocturnal sudden death (dying in your sleep).
Additional studies show that with obstructive sleep apnea, the right side of your heart may suffer damage as it pumps harder to help the lungs overcome the blockage of your airway.
There are no specific symptoms for sleep apnea, which can make diagnosis difficult. Sometimes symptoms of snoring and daytime sleepiness can help identify individuals at risk for sleep apnea.
Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center has pioneered an outpatient treatment approach for sleep apnea. This approach involves sleep specialists and cardiologists seeing patients together in an integrated program that is improving patients' quality of life. It also promotes research to better understand links between sleep apnea and heart disease.
The sleep medicine and cardiology researchers at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center were the first to evaluate the impact of common sleep disorders on heart failure patients.
Tests for evaluating a person for sleep apnea include:
Your sleep doctor can determine which test is most appropriate based on your particular case.
Seeking early treatment for sleep apnea can reduce your risk for heart disease. Specific treatment for heart disease and sleep apnea will be determined by your physician based on:
Therapy for sleep apnea is specifically designed based on your individual needs, and may include the following:
Always consult your sleep medicine physician for the most appropriate treatment plan based on your medical condition.
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