While there is a whole list of health conditions and habits that can lead to heart problems, there is one condition you might have without even knowing. Sleep apnea affects approximately 9% of women and 24% of men, but experts believe that 80% of cases go undiagnosed. If you do not know you have sleep apnea, you certainly cannot treat it, and leaving it untreated can lead to major health issues, including heart problems.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a health condition that prevents a person from breathing properly while sleeping. It occurs when tissue in the back of the throat blocks the normal airway you use to breathe. When this happens, you can actually stop breathing for a few seconds, but this is not the only thing that happens.
In addition to this, the oxygen to the brain gets cut off and this triggers the heart to pump harder and faster. As this is happening, your brain will signal you to wake up, and you will wake up, even if you do not realize you do.
Why Does It Go Unnoticed?
Sleep apnea commonly goes unnoticed because the symptoms seem quite normal. Some of the symptoms include:
- Loud snoring
- Feeling tired all the time
- Sore throat
- Lack of motivation
- Problems focusing
If you believe that you might have sleep apnea, talk to your doctor or dentist. There are treatment options for sleep apnea, and with the right treatment plan, your sleep apnea will not pose any major risks to your health. If you do not find out that you have it and do not treat it, this condition could lead to something that is far worse.
How Does It Lead To Heart Problems?
One of the first problems sleep apnea can cause is high blood pressure. This occurs because of the added stress the condition places on the heart each time you stop breathing. When you stop breathing, your heart will automatically detect a problem and will increase in speed.
According to the American Lung Association, a person with sleep apnea may stop breathing 5 to 30 times each hour. If this is happening to you 30 times an hour during eight hours of sleep a night, you are adding extra pressure to your heart 240 times, and this takes place night after night.
If you end up developing high blood pressure and continue to live without treatment, this may result in a stroke, heart attack, or heart disease. Keep in mind that you can prevent these issues by seeking treatment for this condition.
How Do Doctors Treat It?
Once you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, your doctor or dentist will offer a treatment plan for you, and this may consist of using:
- A dental mouth guard – Sleeping with a molded piece of plastic in your mouth each night can actually help stop the effects of sleep apnea. This device will keep your airway opened, which means that you will not stop breathing while you sleep.
- A continuous positive airway machine (CPAP) – The other common treatment option for sleep apnea is using a CPAP machine. This device blows air into your nose while you sleep, and it literally forces you to keep breathing.
Using either of these devices can reduce the risks and effects of sleep apnea, but your doctor might also suggest losing weight and stopping smoking, as both of these increase your risks of developing sleep apnea.
If you would like to find out if you have sleep apnea or other oral problems, talk to a dentist today. He or she might be able to help you find out and will offer a treatment plan that works for you.