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Samuel Pollina, DMD
Sleep Apnea A Matter Of the Heart
Annapolis Snoring and Sleep Apnea Center
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Sleep Apnea A Matter Of the Heart

Low oxygen levels in the blood cause repeated increases in the heart rate each time the brain alerts the breathing muscles to work harder when breathing stops. Eventually the continuous changes in the heart rate throughout the night cause damage to the heart tissue.

Arrhythmia when the heart beats too fast or too slow is one effect of heart damage. Similarly, fibrillation is an erratic heartbeat that occurs in the upper chambers of the heart.

Ultimately, the effects on heart rate from sleep apnea have the potential to cause inadequate blood flow from the damaged heart to the entire body. This in turn increases the workload on the heart and may cause it to fail.

Researchers at the prestigious Mayo Clinic found that patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have an increased risk of having a heart attack between typical sleeping hours 12AM-6AM. In fact, in their study of the individuals who had a heart attack during these nighttime hours, 91% had OSA. This is rather convincing support of the effect of nighttime oxygen shortages on heart function.

Proven treatment for sleep apnea include a pressurized breathing mask (CPAP), oral appliances worn over the teeth to keep the airway open or airway surgeries that remove excessive tissue blocking the airway.

Untreated sleep apnea carries a significant medical risks and is documented to reduce life expectancy between 8-10 years.

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