Sleep Apnea and The Dangers of Hypertension

Posted by Hilary Young on December 17, 2014

Sleep Apnea and The Dangers of Hypertension

If you’ve ever slept next to someone who snores at night, or even slept in the same vicinity as someone who snores at night, you’re probably familiar with the painful sounds of sleep apnea.  While not all snorer’s suffer from sleep apnea, studies have shown that about 75% of them do suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).  It’s important not to dismiss snoring as merely a nuisance to deal with, as it can be a sign of health issues that can have grave consequences.

According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, research has found sleep apnea to lead to greater risk of “high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation, diabetes, certain cancers and even sudden death.”

And now studies show that sleep apnea can even lead to high blood pressure that is treatment-resistant.

The Study

In the August 2014 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, researchers focused on participants who had established heart disease, severe sleep apnea, or cardiovascular risk factors.  Of the 284 participants, 73 of them had been prescribed intensive antihypertensive medications.  Of those participants on the antihyperintensive medications, the researchers found that those with sleep apnea were 29% more likely than those without sleep apnea to show elevated blood pressure that was resistant to treatment.

“Our findings suggest that severe obstructive sleep apnea contributes to poor blood pressure control despite aggressive medication use,” said study author Dr. Harneet Walia, assistant professor at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University. “This is an important finding from a clinical perspective as poor blood pressure control in patients taking multiple antihypertensive medications makes them particularly vulnerable to increased cardiovascular risk.”

Further analysis found that resistant elevated blood pressure was four times greater in those with “severe, untreated sleep apnea, even after adjusting for potential confounders such as body mass index, smoking status, diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular disease.”

Treatment

While this study might bring some bad news for those who suffer from sleep apnea, all hope is not lost.  If you think you may suffer from sleep apnea and haven’t already spoken to a physician, that is the first step in taking control of your health.  With the help of your doctor, you can start treatments not only for hypertension, but also for your sleep apnea, helping to reduce your risk of developing further cardiovascular complications.

Research recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), which is the standard treatment for sleep apnea, has been successful in lowering blood pressure moreso than medication.  The study found that patients who used the CPAP device for 12 weeks “reduced their diastolic blood pressure and improved their overall nighttime blood pressure.”

Lead researcher on that study Dr. Miguel-Angel Martinez-Garcia, from the Polytechnic University Hospital in Valencia, suggests that patients with resistant high blood pressure should enter into a sleep study to determine whether sleep apnea is, in fact, the cause of their resistance and then begin a nightly CPAP regimen. 


TAGS: sleep apnea hypertension treatment