The High Blood Pressure and Sleep Apnea Connection
Depending on what side of the fence you are on, you may or may not feel that our entire body is connected in some way. How all of the systems of the human body interact may never be understood completely, however, there is growing evidence that the link between obstructive sleep apnea with hypertension or high blood pressure is very clear. First though, we have to make sure we are clear what both of these medical conditions are.
High Blood Pressure
Hypertension aka high blood pressure results when the heart goes through quick changes of beats per minute. It is similar to a car engine that goes from sitting idle to instantly running at full speed. Think of what that would be like on your car engine, and then think of what that would be like on your own body. Especially if it was doing that all night long, and while you were sleeping. Scary thought for sure. That is the basics of high blood pressure. The heart works to feed the body with oxygen because it knows that without oxygen, the body can not function properly.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
OSA or sleep apnea is a simple concept. It takes place when a person is constantly blocking the passage of air to the lungs. This takes place as you might expect when someone is sleeping. When there is a blockage of air, that creates a sudden loss of oxygen to the body which can cause all sorts of problems. Sleep apnea is also very closely associated with snoring but there are a few important differences. People who snore do not all have obstructive sleep apnea, and people who do not snore may also have sleep apnea.
Now lets look at the chain of events in a person who suffers from obstructive sleep apnea and the relation to hypertension and high blood pressure. We will go in a step by step review:
- An airway obstruction occurs from an apnea event (50% or more blockage of the airway)
- Oxygen levels go down in the body (lungs, brain, blood, organs)
- Heart rate drops due to low oxygen levels
- Before death occurs, the brain wakes up the person and causes an arousal and movement to open airway
- Airway is opened and allows airflow
- Lungs fill up with air
- Heart recognizes the new oxygen and begins beating like crazy increasing heart rate
- Oxygenated blood flows to the rest of the body
- Another airway obstruction occurs and the process repeats itself
From the steps above you can see exactly where the heart fits in and connects with the sleep apnea events. With such rapid changes in heart rate, it affects the blood pressure dramatically and it is a vicious cycle that does not end in severe patients until they either wake up or die. To understand more about treatments for obstructive sleep apnea please visit the CPAP therapy page which details what can be done to stop this cycle.
Alternatively, you can ask your doctor about high blood pressure medications, however they will be ultimately in-effective with helping you because the root cause here of the hypertension is the sleep apnea itself.