The link between sleep apnea, high blood pressure and subsequent heart disease is increasingly being recognized. There is a strong correlation between people with high blood pressure, heart failure and tendency for strokes and the prevalence of sleep apnea. It is still unproven whether there is a direct link between sleep apnea and heart disease, but many medical professionals recognize that if you do have sleep apnea, the chances of developing hypertension in the future go up dramatically.
Studies have also found that treating sleep apnea can significantly improve blood pressure. This could also be due in part to other lifestyle changes, but the connection between blood pressure and sleep apnea certainly exists.
Common signs of sleep apnea include snoring, gasping for air, breathlessness when waking up, and a dry throat in the morning, for example. While you are sleeping at night and not breathing properly, the oxygen levels in your body fall and your central nervous system tells your body to tighten up your blood vessels in order to increase blood flow to your heart and brain.
These signals continue to take effect during the day, so temporary responses by your body to low oxygen level while you sleep due remain in place throughout the day. This persists even when people are breathing normally after having woken up and adjusted to the day.
The short answer to whether or not sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure is: Yes. Sleep apnea has the potential to alter the flow of blood in your body on more than just a nightly basis. Persistent constricted blood vessels are what lead to high blood pressure. So not being able to breath properly while you sleep can definitely contribute to developing high blood pressure. There are, however, other important factors that a medical professional would need to consider. Other lifestyle questions, as well as genetic predisposition would be factored in as potential contributing factors, some of which sleep apnea may be exacerbating.
If you are worried about high blood pressure because of your sleep apnea, or are struggling to figure out why you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, despite leading a healthy life, it may have nothing to do with what you are eating and how you are exercising and could have more to do with the fact that you are not getting enough oxygen while you sleep.
If you’re experiencing sleep apnea, speak with a dentist today to learn more about treatment options.