Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is quickly becoming one of the most prevalent chronic diseases in America, almost as prevalent as asthma and diabetes. Unfortunately, OSA is continuing to rise because of the increased rates of obesity. Even worse, obesity can increase your chances of obtaining a diagnosis of OSA, and OSA can make it harder to lose weight. Therefore, it is very important to have this condition recognized and treated early.
Sleep Apnea happens because the muscles of the throat relax when you fall to sleep and close off your throat. Our brain detects that we cannot breathe, and "jolts" you awake so you do not suffocate. You usually are not consciously aware that you woke up and fall right back asleep again. But imagine if every five minutes someone shook you awake, every time you went to sleep, for years! And now imagine the enormous impact this would have on your health.
Why OSA is so harmful to your health
While the exact set of mechanisms around OSA are not entirely understood, researchers have a good idea of the underlying mechanisms. A lot of OSA’s contribution to poor health outcomes has to do with the interruption of sleep, and the stress this causes on your body.
Your blood pressure stays high when you do not get good rest. This one should be obvious, right? Think of the "stress" your body goes through with sleep apnea, and remember that a lot of stress over time can keep your blood pressure high. This leads to other issues like atherosclerosis (plaque in your arteries), heart attacks, and strokes. Your doctor will be able to pinpoint this type of hypertension because without sleep apnea, your blood pressure normally lowers quite a bit while you sleep.
The increased stress of sleep apnea and high blood pressure over time can cause small breaks in your blood vessels which must be repaired by tools located in your bloodstream. This repair process creates Atherosclerosis, or plaque, which can break off and travel to smaller blood vessels and become stuck. This stops blood flow and can suffocate essential organs. When this happens in your brain, it results in a stroke.
- Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack)
That same process that causes a stroke can also lead to a heart attack when the blood clot becomes lodged in vessels that supply nutrients to the heart.
- Type 2 Diabetes
OSA has been shown to increase the incidence of diabetes. This is probably for the same reason it causes hypertension: keeping your body in a prolonged state of stress has a lot of effects. And in this case, it tries to store extra sugars.
- Heart Failure
Heart failure is when the muscles of the heart are no longer strong enough to pump the massive amount of blood circulating through the body. Patients with heart failure experience trouble breathing, they cannot exercise as well, and their risk of clots (stroke and heart attack) go up. You probably guessed it, but all that increased stress that causes the other issues on this list also wear out your heart.
The lack of sleep and fatigue associated with sleep apnea makes it harder to exercise and eat appropriately, plus your body creates more insulin while in this state. Prolonged exposure to insulin is known to cause weight gain in people without diabetes (type 2 diabetes are also at risk if they get too much for too long).
Each of the last six chronic medical issues is itself ties to the mood disorder depression, and it should come as no surprise that sleep apnea itself contributes.
What if I think I have sleep apnea?
OSA is usually caught by family members. Have yours noticed loud snoring that causes you to stop breathing? Make an appointment with you physicians and ask about scheduling a sleep study. This could be one of the most important decisions you make for your long-term health.
Request an appointment in our Petersburg office here: https://southsidedentalassociates.com.
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