So far, it’s unknown whether or not sleep apnea and hypertension’s relationship is one of cause and effect. However, researchers have found over and over again that those who suffer from sleep apnea are much more likely to have or develop hypertension than the average person. Here’s how it works: When you stop breathing at night as a result of sleep apnea, your brain notices the lowered oxygen levels and commands your system to send more blood to the heart and the brain — your body’s top priorities. This results in what should be a temporary increase in blood pressure. However, when your body is doing this over and over throughout the night, that high blood pressure doesn’t seem to fully disappear once you wake up and are breathing normally. Instead, your blood pressure remains high even when your oxygen levels are normal.
The impacts of hypertension are varied — some will only make you miserable, and others will kill you. On the non-deadly side of the equation, hypertension can affect your bone density, your eyesight, your mood, and even your libido. High blood pressure can result in increased calcium elimination from the body, which lowers bone density and could even lead to osteoporosis if unchecked. Higher blood pressure can mean higher eye pressure, which can lead to glaucoma, which can mean loss of eyesight. Or, that increased pressure can damage the retina, yet again leading to loss of eyesight, but this time by way of retinopathy. A number of the medications used to treat hypertension have the side effect of depression or other mood disorders. And increased blood pressure can cause erectile dysfunction, and decreased libido in general. On the deadly side of the equation, hypertension starts looking a lot scarier. In fact, it’s tied to some of the biggest killers in the world. For example, high blood pressure can damage the blood vessels. If those vessels burst or get clogged, that’s a stroke — the fifth most common cause of death in the US. And when it comes to your kidneys, whose job is to filter waste and toxins from the blood, that increased blood pressure can make that job very difficult. In fact, high blood pressure can damage the kidneys so badly that they become less effective at that work. They may even fail completely, which is deadly. But most deadly of all is heart disease, the most common cause of death around the whole world. The heart is the one pumping all that blood, so increased blood pressure affects it particularly. That extra stress on the heart means that people with high blood pressure are at much higher risk of heart disease. Sleep apnea is a killer, but you don’t have to sit back and let it happen. When treated, the related risks decrease or even disappear. If you think you may have sleep apnea, call us at (610) 272-0828 or contact us online to make an appointment and learn about how an experienced sleep dentist can help treat your sleep apnea.