Sleep apnea is often a misunderstood condition. Yes, sleep apnea results in serious fatigue, yawning throughout the day, drowsy driving, lack of concentration. However, beyond these obvious and serious side effects, sleep apnea can pose threats to overall health and well-being in unexpected ways.
A Threat to Cardiovascular Health
Lack of proper, solid rest can easily be a contributor to health problems like obesity and depression. But recent research has found that people with obstructive sleep apnea are more likely to have an irregular heartbeat. A drop in the oxygen levels in the blood combined with disrupted sleep can cause a strain on the heart and lead to heart problems or stroke.
If you have additional risk factors for cardiovascular problems, such as a family history of heart disease or an unhealthy lifestyle, getting tested for sleep apnea is even more essential. Treatment for sleep apnea can be as simple as an oral appliance worn during sleep. Some patients may require a more intensive intervention, such as a procedure to remove the tissues that are obstructing airways.
While medication can be used to control an irregular heartbeat, if sleep apnea is not addressed the irregularity will continue and the cardiovascular risk will remain elevated.
Increase in Pregnancy Complications
Mothers-to-be notoriously suffer from poor rest, whether they cannot find a comfortable position or must get up throughout the night to use the bathroom. While these side effects of pregnancy are inconvenient and make a mother even more tired, sleep apnea can be an even more dangerous condition.
Pregnant women who have sleep apnea may be at a higher risk for longer hospital stays and pregnancy complications like heart failure, gestational diabetes, swelling in the lungs, and preeclampsia. The physiological changes of pregnancy may be a trigger for sleep apnea, while the weight gain associated with pregnancy can also create complications. Women with sleep apnea were close to three times as likely to be admitted to the ICU than women without the sleep condition.
Undiagnosed Sleep Apnea in African Americans
A sleep study involving a select number of African American residents in the Jackson, Mississippi, metropolitan area found that three of every four participants had mild to severe sleep apnea. Only a little over 2 percent of those diagnosed with sleep apnea reported that they had already had a physician diagnose the problem.
While lifestyle and geographic factors can absolutely influence the findings of The Jackson Heart Study, the results involving the study population were higher than expected. The reasons for the undiagnosed sleep apnea were not identified in the study, but awareness of the symptoms of sleep apnea and availability of screenings for the condition could certainly impact the health of African Americans in this region of the country.
Address Sleep Apnea Now
Because sleep apnea seems to affect some demographics more than others, that doesn’t mean you should shy away from pursuing diagnosis or treatment if you suspect that sleep apnea is interrupting your life. Make your appointment with Dr. Carole Sherrod Jewell at Red Bank Dentistry in Red Bank, NJ, to learn more about sleep apnea, undergo an examination, and find out whether an oral appliance can help you solve this exhausting and dangerous health condition.