WHY YOU CAN’T STAY AWAKE: THE DANGERS OF SLEEP APNEA – HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE

When breathing stops, the brain signals the heart to pump more vigorously to compensate for the drop in oxygen supply. Blood pressure thus rises sharply; in severe cases, this increase can lead to cardiac arrest, which can be fatal.
One study found that patients with sleep apnea were five times as likely to have high blood pressure as those who were unaffected by nighttime breathing disturbance. Between 60 and 80 percent of patients with OSA also have hypertension. Also, about 30 percent of patients with hypertension suffer from OSA—a significantly higher incidence of OSA than that found in the general population, which is estimated to be 5 percent. Such results indicate that OSA plays a direct role in elevating blood pressure. The same study found that hypertensive patients had an average of 110 apneic episodes per night, compared with 11 experienced by nonhypertensive individuals. There are two conclusions to be drawn from such data: if you have hypertension, it should be treated in order to minimize the risk of OSA (and for many other reasons as well). Conversely, if you have OSA, it should be treated to lower the risk of developing a chronic case of high blood pressure.
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