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Is Sleep Apnea Dangerous?

More than 22 million individuals in the United States suffer from sleep apnea, but more than 80% of the moderate to severe cases go undiagnosed, making it a dangerous condition. Sleep apnea is not merely characterized by snoring; people with this ailment are at high risk for serious cardiovascular disorders without knowing it.

If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, it is pivotal not to let it slide and consult a sleep apnea specialist for a sleep apnea test or sleep study. If you do not wish to leave the comfort of your house, you can also sit for an at-home sleep study or conduct a home sleep apnea test. Several sleep apnea specialists also offer convenient online sleep apnea tests.

Is Sleep Apnea Dangerous?

According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, more than 38,000 individuals in the United States die from cardiovascular disorders, with sleep apnea as a major complicating factor. Although sleep apnea is a treatable complication, it proves dangerous as it seldom goes undiagnosed. Statistics from the American Heart Association show that every 1 in 5 individuals suffer from sleep apnea but overlook the symptoms as mere disturbances in breathing while sleeping.

Sleep apnea is generally more common in men than women, but children can also develop this condition. According to a 2010 study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, sleep apnea can elevate the risk of a stroke by two to three times. Another study by the Yale School of Medicine in 2007 corroborates this claim by warning that sleep apnea can increase your chances of cardiovascular disorders or death by over 30% over a relative period of four to five years.

Another study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology in 2013 showed that people with sleep apnea have an increased mortality rate due to associated cardiovascular complications. The study also concluded that sleep apnea could elevate the chances of sudden cardiac death, which is most likely if you:

  • Have 20 or more sleep apnea episodes in every hour of sleep.

  • Are older than 60 years.

  • Have a blood oxygen level of less than 78% while sleeping.

Another medical review study conducted in 2011 showed that up to 60% of people with cardiovascular disorders or heart failure suffer from sleep apnea. Adult study participants who received treatment for sleep apnea had a better two-year survival rate than participants who did not, proving that sleep apnea can improve or worsen heart conditions.

Here are a few reasons that show that sleep apnea is a dangerous ailment requiring proper medical care:

Hypertension or High Blood Pressure

Sleep apnea can prove to be an aggravating factor for people who already have high blood pressure. Frequent waking-up episodes during the night can exert additional stress on the body, prompting your hormones to go into overdrive and increase your blood pressure levels. Problems in breathing can also decrease the level of oxygen in the blood, which may add to the complication.

Proper treatment can make a substantial difference in people with high blood pressure and sleep apnea. It may also allow them to cut back on their medication. Do not stop taking your medications before consulting your medical professional first!

Cardiovascular Disorders

OSA can increase the risk of cardiovascular disorders and heart attacks, with the primary cause being low oxygen. Atrial fibrillation - a condition that causes a fluttering and fast heartbeat - and strokes may also be crucial.

Sleep apnea interferes with the amount of oxygen that goes into the body, making it harder for the brain to control blood flow through the arteries and brain. These low oxygen levels may become a primary reason for cardiac arrest.

Heart Failure

People with obstructive sleep apnea may suffer from pulmonary hypertension, also known as right-sided heart failure (RHF). RHF results in a weakened right ventricle unable to pump adequate blood to the lungs. This causes a blood buildup in the veins, pushing the fluid back into the tissue and causing swelling.

Therefore, RHF can become a leading cause of congestive heart failure. One of the most common symptoms of right-sided heart failure is an abnormal swelling in the legs, ankles, and feet.


Obstructive sleep apnea can reduce blood flow to the brain, increasing the risk of ischemic stroke. One of the primary causes of ischemic stroke is blocked blood vessels and reduced blood flow to the brain, which means the body does not get enough oxygen.

Ischemic strokes are 25% more likely to occur during sleep, primarily because they happen early during REM sleep. Therefore, people with sleep apnea may have a higher risk of ischemic stroke.

Type 2 Diabetes

Sleep apnea is highly common among people with Type 2 diabetes: more than 80% of people with obstructive sleep apnea also have diabetes. Obesity is a common risk for both diabetes and sleep apnea.

Although there is a lack of considerable research to show a causal relationship between sleep apnea and type 2 diabetes, recurrent waking-up episodes during the night can prevent the body from using insulin properly, leading to diabetes.

Weight Gain

Obesity is a marked risk factor for sleep apnea, making losing weight difficult. Medical specialists believe obesity to be one of the biggest reasons behind a surge in obstructive sleep apnea cases in the last two decades. Obesity can result in fat deposition in the neck, blocking breathing at night.

Sleep apnea can also increase the release of the ghrelin hormone, increasing your craving for sweets and carbs. Being overweight also promotes tiredness, making it hard for obese people to effectively turn their food into energy, prompting even more weight gain.

Regular treatment for obstructive sleep apnea and exercise can improve fatigue and feelings of tiredness, which can help you lose weight and manage your sleep apnea. One of the most common treatments for obstructive sleep apnea is CPAP - or continuous positive airway pressure - therapy, which uses a machine to blow a constant and steady stream of air pressure through a mask or nose piece, keeping the airways open.

Metabolic Syndrome

A group of health conditions comes under metabolic syndrome, all linked to obstructive sleep apnea. People suffering from metabolic syndrome have at least three of the following conditions:

  • High blood pressure

  • High blood sugar

  • Abundant fat around the waist

  • Low levels of HDL or good cholesterol

  • High levels of triglycerides (a type of blood fat)

Now that you know the ill effects of sleep apnea, contact a sleep apnea specialist at SleepRx immediately!

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