Long-Term Risks Of Sleep Apnea

Woman sleeping on white bed

Sleep apnea is one of those hidden health risks that few people end up taking seriously. After all, it doesn’t seem that dangerous or interesting is someone breathes a little more shallowly when they sleep or if they experience a brief pause in breathing when sleeping either. They keep breathing after the interruption and the worst part of it seems to be over. Even if they pause to consider the raucous snoring this condition tends to cause, it doesn’t really figure into the mental calculations for problems or risks associated with sleep apnea. This is unfortunate as there are some fairly immediate and many long term risks associated with sleep apnea. These risks are for serious conditions that can dramatically impact one’s health too. In an effort to make truly look at the risks of sleep apnea, we’re going to quickly review some of the prominent long-term risks associated with it. Not only will this help people take sleep apnea more seriously, but it will also provide an idea of the kinds of concerns to bring up with a doctor if one is experiencing sleep apnea.

Stroke
As one of the words that no one wants to hear, stroke tends to immediately make a situation more serious. The damage from a stroke can be life changing and the unfortunate truth is that sleep apnea appears to increase one’s risk of stroke. This is likely related to the fact that sleep apnea increases overall pressure within the circulatory systems and as a result it more readily contributes to the situations that create a stroke. What makes matters worse is that sleep apnea isn’t done with you after the initial stroke. The simple fact that it diminishes the amount of oxygen your brain can get when sleeping means that recovery from a stroke is minimized as well. This makes any damage done more likely to be long-lasting and continually affect your quality of life. Sleep apnea’s potential dangers don’t stop at an increased risk for stroke either. This is simply a symptom of larger problems that the body ends up experiencing due to sleep apnea.

High Blood Pressure
As we highlighted above, sleep apnea increases the overall pressure of the circulatory system. Higher blood pressure is associated with numerous problems even as it is a problem in its own right. What ends up raising your blood pressure is the struggle that your body undergoes every time difficulty breathing sets in while sleeping. Your body has sophisticated detection mechanisms and can tell when you’re not getting enough oxygen to your brain. It tries to compensate for this by increasing circulation to get more blood to the brain at a higher rate to offset the apparent problem. Once your breathing returns to normal, this falls away and normal operations resume. Unfortunately, the nature of sleep apnea means that this cycle of increased circulation happens repeatedly over the course of a single night. The repeated stress on your body begins to wear it out and shift it into a higher stress way of operating that has many negative low term consequences.

Heart Disease
High blood pressure is obviously a risk factor for heart disease all on its own, but with sleep apnea this risk becomes even greater. Remember that the periods of time where you’re not breathing make your body react instinctively. A heart rate increase is just one of these effects, but is potentially the most devastating. Sleep apnea has been shown to create an irregular heartbeat that, when combined with high blood pressure and other factors, dramatically increases the chance for a heart attack. This increased risk is hard to manage too given that it centers on the automatic responses of your body trying to keep you alive. The only real solution is seeking meaningful treatment for the condition by talking to a doctor. It won’t immediately remove any long term risks that have built up over time, but it can put your body on the path to recovery and a better overall life.

Sleep apnea is a potentially deadly condition if it goes untreated. The chronic stress it places on a sleeping body creates a situation where the body’s very struggle to keep itself working properly has very real effects on the body. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to treat sleep apnea if it is diagnosed properly and one follows through on the course of treatment suggested by a doctor. Working against sleep apnea will give you back control of your health and your life.

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