You’ve probably heard that regular exercise and a heart-healthy diet are the most important things you can do for your cardiovascular health. As it turns out, though, the quality of sleep you receive is also critical to your heart’s and your overall wellbeing. Ignoring sleep apnea or snoring can lead to the worsening of symptoms. Make treatment a top priority in order to prevent further complications. Here are some medical complications that can be caused by untreated sleep apnea can have on your oral and overall health.


High blood pressure or heart problems: Sudden drops in blood oxygen levels that occur during sleep apnea increase blood pressure and strain the cardiovascular system. Having obstructive sleep apnea increases your risk of high blood pressure (hypertension). Obstructive sleep apnea might also increase your risk of recurrent heart attack, stroke and abnormal heartbeats, such as atrial fibrillation. If you have heart disease, multiple episodes of low blood oxygen (hypoxia or hypoxemia) can lead to sudden death from an irregular heartbeat.

Stroke: The leading complication of untreated sleep apnea is stroke. When the blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted or severely reduced, your brain tissue is deprived of oxygen and nutrients.  Within just a few minutes, brain cells begin to die. Through the damage and stress to your blood vessels, it is believed that this is caused by blood pressure and oxygen changes from sleep apnea, which increases your risk of stroke.

Diabetes: Rates of diabetes are higher among people with sleep apnea. This is because diabetes and sleep apnea share common risk factors, including obesity and advancing age. More than half of people that are obese are considered to be at a high risk for developing sleep apnea, while further studies also suggest having sleep apnea increases the risk of developing diabetes. It appears to be quite the dilemma.

Depression: The relationship between sleep and depression is complex, but it is clear. It has been shown that depression may cause sleep problems and sleep problems may cause or contribute to depression. For some people, depression symptoms occur before the onset of sleep complications, but for others sleep problems appear first.  Either way, sleep problems are associated with more severe depression.

Dementia and memory loss: Several researchers have studied sleep apnea to learn if, and how, it may be connected to brain functioning, memory, and risk of dementia. In one scientific review, researchers looked at several of the prior studies that had been conducted on sleep apnea and dementia and found a strong connection between the two factors. Specifically, people who had Alzheimer’s disease were five times more likely than those without Alzheimer’s to also have sleep apnea. Additionally, they found that approximately half of the studies’ participants who had been diagnosed with dementia had experienced sleep apnea at some time after their diagnosis. A different study published in the journal Neurology and conducted at the New York University School of Medicine outlines research conducted with more than 2000 participants. After reviewing the sleeping patterns and cognitive functioning of these participants, the researchers reached the following conclusions: Persons with sleep apnea developed mild cognitive impairment about 10 years earlier in life than those without sleep apnea.

Weight gain: Extra pounds raise your chances of getting sleep apnea, and the condition also makes it harder to slim down. When you’re overweight, you can have fatty deposits in your neck that block breathing at night. On the flip side, sleep apnea can make your body release more of the hormone ghrelin, which makes you crave carbs and sweets. And when you’re tired all the time, you might not be able to turn the food you eat into energy as efficiently, which can lead to weight gain. The good news? Treatment for OSA can make you feel better, with more energy for exercise and other activities. This can help you lose weight, which can help your sleep apnea.

Sexual health: Several studies have shown how sleep apnea affects sexual health in both men and women. Past studies in men have shown a spike in erectile dysfunction (ED) among men who suffer from the sleep disorder, such as a 2009 study done in Germany that reported that 70 percent of men referred seeking sleep apnea treatment also suffered from ED. Women, like men, are also likely to find their sexual lives negatively affected by obstructive sleep apnea. Several studies have found strong correlations between obstructive sleep apnea and sexual dysfunction in women. As obstructive sleep apnea grows worse, problems with sexual function — including sensation and desire — become more serious, according to this research. The Journal of Sexual Medicine of women aged 28 to 64 found that those with sleep apnea were significantly more likely to suffer from loss of libido and sexual dysfunction.

Acid reflux: There’s not enough evidence that sleep apnea causes this kind of heartburn, but many people say it’s a problem. Treating reflux seems to improve apnea symptoms for some people, and treating OSA helps symptoms of reflux, sleep doctors say.

Motor vehicle accidents: When you feel groggy, you raise your risk of falling asleep at the wheel. People with sleep apnea are up to five times more likely than normal sleepers to have traffic accidents.

Sleep apnea & snoring can affect not only yours but also your partners quality of life and keep you from living your life to the fullest. Since every Sleep apnea & snoring patient has different needs, it is important for Dr Virk to evaluate you to determine which unique treatment plan can maximize results for you. If you think you may have Sleep apnea & snoring, or if you just have questions, please feel  free to contact us to make an appointment!  We can also provide you with available treatment options to not only help you get a better night’s sleep, but to improve your overall health as well.

Note: The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions. 

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