Sleep apnea could lead to heart failure, study warns

With more Americans living longer than ever, heart failure is on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than six million American adults suffer from heart failure, but contrary to what you might assume, the term “heart failure” does not mean that your heart has stopped beating. . On the contrary, heart failure is a serious condition in which your heart does not pump enough blood for your body to function at its best.

Unfortunately, the signs of heart failure can be difficult to spot and early symptoms often go unnoticed. Signs of heart failure include shortness of breath during daily activities, difficulty breathing when lying down, weight gain, swelling, and fatigue. Plus, studies show that a particular thing you do at night can increase your risk of heart failure. Read on to find out what it is and how it could put your heart at risk.

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If you wake up tired or have trouble keeping your eyes open during the day despite getting a full night’s rest, you may be suffering from a common condition that can lead to heart failure. According to a 2018 study published in the Journal of the Texas Heart Institutethis sleep problem is linked to many heart problems, such as hypertension, coronary heart disease, cardiac arrhythmias, sudden cardiac death, and heart failure.

There are two types of heart failure: systolic and diastolic. Systolic heart failure occurs when the left ventricle of your heart does not contract completely, which prevents your heart from pumping enough blood throughout your body. Diastolic heart failure occurs when less blood is pumped through your body because the left ventricle does not fill with blood properly.

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Man with Sleep Apnea Macine
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Sleep apnea is a common condition in which your breathing stops and starts frequently throughout the night. This prevents your body from getting enough oxygen and puts you at risk for health complications. There are two distinct types of sleep apnea related to heart failure: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (SCA).

“In OSA, the airways partially or completely close,” explains Harneet Kaur Walia, MD, director of sleep medicine at Baptist Health’s Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute. “In CSA, there is no airway obstruction. In this type of sleep apnea, respiratory function is absent from the brain.”

According to the 2018 study, the prevalence of OSA is significantly higher in people with heart failure than in the general population. “OSA is strongly associated with high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythm, heart attack, stroke, and heart failure,” warns Kaur Walia. “In patients with heart failure, excess fluid in the upper airways is an additional factor that can contribute to narrowing of the airways. Changes in chest pressure related to sleep apnea place stress on the heart , and this effect is greater in patients with cardiac failure.”

Man holding his head because of pain
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Symptoms of sleep apnea to look out for include snoring, morning headaches, mood swings, insomnia, and nighttime awakenings due to choking or stuffiness. Other warning signs to look for that may not be as easy to spot include high blood pressure and increased sympathetic nervous system activity, such as accelerated heart rate, dilated pupils, narrowed blood vessels.

“People who are overweight, have a large neck circumference, smoke, or have chronic lung conditions such as asthma are at increased risk of OSA,” says Jennifer Mieres, MD, professor of cardiology at the Zucker School of Medicine. “In addition, there is a higher prevalence of sleep apnea in men; they are two to three times more likely to have sleep apnea than women. The risk increases for obese women and for those who are postmenopausal. Polycystic ovary syndrome, hormonal disorders and history of stroke may also increase the risk of sleep apnea.”

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Doctor testing sleep habits
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If you suspect you have sleep apnea, see a doctor who can perform a test to determine if you have OSA. There are two types of tests: overnight polysomnography and home sleep tests. During a nighttime polysomnography test, doctors monitor your heart, lung, and brain activity, breathing patterns, body movements, and blood oxygen levels while you sleep. Home sleep tests are simplified tests that your doctor will provide to you so that you can measure your heart rate, breathing rate, and blood oxygen levels throughout the night.

The Mayo Clinic reports that there are therapeutic and surgical treatments for sleep apnea. Therapeutic treatment of OSA usually involves equipment that works to keep the airways open. The most common treatment is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), a device that delivers air pressure through a mask to keep your airways open while you sleep. Other therapeutic treatments include mouth appliances that hold your throat open, supplemental oxygen, and adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV) airflow devices.

If therapeutic treatments cannot resolve your OSA, surgery may be needed. Options include removing tissue from the roof of your mouth and throat, repositioning the jaw, nerve stimulation, and forming a new air passage (also called a tracheotomy). A tracheostomy is only necessary in extreme cases where OSA is life-threatening. Your doctor can recommend healthy lifestyle habits for milder cases of OSA, such as healthy eating, weight loss, avoiding alcohol, and not smoking.

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