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How Sleep Apnea May Contribute to Hypertension

How Sleep Apnea May Contribute to Hypertension

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a chronic condition that doesn’t usually cause any symptoms, making it hard to detect without a blood pressure test at your local pharmacy or from your doctor. 

Physicians Clifton Etienne, MDMichael Cavanagh, MD, and Flora Brewington, MD, read your blood pressure at the beginning of every visit to Westmed Family Healthcare so they can detect high blood pressure if you have it. 

At our Westminster, Colorado, office, our experienced team treats chronic illnesses with individualized long-term care. We understand that chronic diseases don’t always appear by themselves.

According to the CDC, there are roughly 68 million people in the United States living with more than one chronic disease compared to just 61 million people who only have one. While treating multiple chronic illnesses, our team is mindful of providing simultaneous treatments that don’t counteract or compromise one another. 

While some disease connections are complex and multifaceted, you can often see the link between two chronic conditions that commonly co-occur. For example, sleep apnea can elevate your blood pressure and contribute to hypertension. In this article, we’ll review exactly how this happens.

What happens when you can’t breathe well at night

Sleep apnea comes in several different forms that cause distinct pauses in your breathing at night. With obstructive sleep apnea, your airway is blocked by large tonsils or other excess tissue which causes you to stop breathing and wake up during the night as a result. This form has strong connections with hypertension. 

Obstructive sleep apnea can have serious repercussions for your cardiovascular health. Every time your breathing pauses, your body misses out on some of the vital oxygen it needs for optimal function. 

In severe cases, intermittent hypoxia, or a temporary lack of oxygen, elevates your heart rate while causing your blood pressure to increase as your organs and tissues thirst for more oxygenated blood. 

Even without sleep apnea, your blood pressure naturally lowers when you’re asleep. With sleep apnea, your blood pressure doesn’t significantly lower as you sleep. As soon as you wake up, your blood pressure surges because your body naturally elevates your blood pressure after lowering it to sleep. 

The blood pressure increases associated with obstructive sleep apnea place strain on your cardiovascular system. Over time, that strain increases your risk for a variety of cardiovascular issues with hypertension topping the list. 

This is also due in part to your body’s release of stress hormones called catecholamines when you stop breathing at night. Elevated catecholamines can lead to high blood pressure regardless of if they come from sleep apnea. 

How to detect sleep apnea and mitigate your hypertension risk

Unchecked sleep apnea and associated high blood pressure increase your risk of life-threatening events like heart attack and stroke, which is why you’re better off treating your sleep apnea sooner than later. 

Even if your most recent blood pressure report was within a healthy range, you should familiarize yourself with symptoms of sleep apnea to preserve your cardiovascular health from the start. 

Symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea affect you at night and during the day. You might experience:

You might notice some of these symptoms yourself, but anyone who sleeps near you might notice your breathing difficulties before you do. By reporting symptoms like these to your physician at Westmed Family Healthcare, you can find treatment early before sleep apnea raises your blood pressure. 

Our team can also provide any necessary treatment for hypertension you already have. Schedule an appointment by phone or online to find out how you can prevent or manage hypertension today.

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