Dangers of sleep apnea on your heart

Dangers of sleep apnea on your heart

A recent study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, sheds light on the increased risk of sudden cardiac death due to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

This study followed nearly 11,000 patients over an average of five years. During the study period, 142 patients experienced sudden cardiac death.  Independent risk factors for sudden cardiac death included being over 60-years-old, experiencing 20 or more apnea episodes per hour of sleep, and an oxygen saturation less than 78 percent during sleep.

One of the study’s lead authors, cardiologist, Dr. Apoor S. Gami, of Advocate Medical Group in Elmhurst, Ill., believes the study shows that people with OSA, particularly when it is more severe, have a higher risk of sudden cardiac death than people without this condition.

Sleep apnea patients have many episodes when air does not flow into their lungs during sleep. This results in the patient’s blood oxygen level dropping while they are asleep. Researchers found that when levels drop below 78 percent, the patient’s risk of sudden cardiac death increase by 80 percent.

OSA is a condition that occurs when the flow of air is paused or decreased because the airway has become narrowed or blocked. The diagnosis generally refers to when a person has at least five of these episodes per hour of sleep.

More than 12 million American adults suffer from OSA, reports the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Many of them go undiagnosed.

Symptoms can include loud snoring, choking or gasping during sleep, and morning or daytime drowsiness. Dr. Gami says past research has shown that OSA is linked to other conditions such as high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation.

“Given the obesity epidemic and direct relationship between obesity and sleep apnea, the prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea in Western populations is high and will only continue to grow,” Dr. Gami said.

Treatment of OSA
Dr. Gami says that if you are experiencing signs of OSA, you should consult with your physician who may recommend you complete a sleep study. He says treatment can then be started to help prevent future health and heart issues, and also to make you feel better during the day.

Some treatment options include:

  • Dental appliances to prevent your tongue from falling back during sleep
  • Weight loss
  • A CPAP mask during sleep
  • Surgical procedures on the palate
  • Surgery to correct a deviated septum or remove tonsils
  • Other types of surgery involving the airway

A new innovation for treatment at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago uses robotic surgical tools for a minimally invasive treatment of severe OSA. This new and effective alternative for treating OSA, TransOral Robotic Surgery, allows for finely controlled throat tissue removal without the need for external incisions.

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About the Author

Sarah Scroggins
Sarah Scroggins

Sarah Scroggins, health enews contributor, is the director of social media at Advocate Aurora Health. She has a BA and MA in Communications. When not on social media, she loves reading a good book (or audiobook), watching the latest Netflix series and teaching a college night class.