How much do you know about sleep apnea? This common sleep disorder impacts millions of people globally. It is characterized by interruptions in breathing while you sleep, leading to poor quality sleep and other health complications. While sleep apnea is often associated with snoring and daytime fatigue, it can also have serious consequences on your heart health.
CVD is a leading cause of death worldwide, with factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking being well-known risk factors. But more recent research has also discovered that sleep apnea can significantly increase your risk of developing CVD.
Sleep Apnea and Cardiovascular Disease
Sleep apnea is a condition that causes your airway to become blocked while you sleep, resulting in brief interruptions in breathing. These pauses can occur multiple times a night and cause a decrease in your blood oxygen levels. Your body then secretes stress hormones to wake you up, leaving you with poor quality sleep and excessive fatigue throughout your day.
Over time, this constant release of stress hormones inevitably leads to inflammation, atherosclerosis and high blood pressure, all of which are risk factors for CVD. In addition, the decrease in oxygen levels in your blood can also cause damage to your heart and blood vessels, further increasing the risk of CVD.
Using CPAP Therapy
If you even slightly suspect that you have sleep apnea, it is important to get a proper diagnosis and corrective treatment. Treatment varies, depending on the severity of your condition. The most common treatment used to overcome sleep apnea symptoms is a device called a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). You simply wear a mask over your nose and mouth while sleeping. The mask uses a tube to connect to the device which delivers a constant flow of air to keep your airway open and provide your body with the oxygen it requires.
Making Lifestyle Changes
Using a CPAP has been shown to significantly improve sleep quality and reduce the risk of CVD for those dealing with sleep apnea. In addition to using the CPAP, there are also lifestyle changes you can make to protect your cardiovascular health:
- Establishing and then maintaining a healthy body weight: Obesity is a significant risk factor for sleep apnea and CVD. Losing weight through diet and exercise can improve your sleep quality while reducing your risk of CVD.
- Quitting smoking: While most of us know smoking is bad for your health, did you know it is also a major risk factor for CVD and exacerbating sleep apnea? Quitting smoking can improve your overall cardiovascular health and help you breathe easier at night.
- Exercising regularly: Regular exercise improves sleep quality while reducing the risk of CVD. Even just 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week can protect your health and improve your sleep.
- Consuming a heart-healthy diet: Now is the time to eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. This can help improve your cardiovascular health and reduce your risk of sleep apnea and CVD overall.
Improving Your Quality of Life
Cardiovascular disease and sleep apnea are both serious health concerns that can make your conditions even worse. If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, it’s important to seek prompt diagnosis and treatment. Managing your sleep apnea can help protect your cardiovascular health and improve your overall quality of life. By taking good care of your sleep and cardiovascular health, you can lead a longer, healthier and happier life!