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Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Heart Health

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a chronic disease that afflicts nearly 30 million men and women in the U.S. and most remain untreated. Sleep apnea involves the repeated collapse of the upper airway during sleep. It puts an enormous strain on your heart by repeatedly causing oxygen levels to drop and blood pressure to surge as you sleep.

Severe Damage

Untreated, severe sleep apnea increases your risk of developing heart problems, and it more than doubles your risk of dying from heart disease.

Sleep apnea hurts HEARTS by increasing the risk of:

H - Heart failure
E - Elevated blood pressure
A - Atrial fibrillation (A-fib)
R - Resistant hypertension
T - Type 2 diabetes
S - Stroke

Sleep specialists Dr. Tashfeen Mahmood and Dale Tallmadge state that “decreased sleep also can lead to decreased heart rate variability, which means that your heart rate does not fluctuate normally and can possibly remain elevated as a result of the stress hormones that are in our system due to poor sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation can alter glucose regulation and functioning of several hormones important to control hunger and satiety, which can result in obesity. We know that both diabetes and obesity are significant risk factors for heart disease. Sleep deprivation alters mood and emotional processing. It also reduces the threshold for stress and elevates stress reactions.”

Damage Control

The good news is that the effective treatment of sleep apnea is good for your sleep and your heart. Treatment with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy improves your overall health and lowers your risk of heart problems.

“The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends seven to eight hours of sleep for most adults. Risk of hypertension and cardiovascular diseases increases when sleep duration drops below six to seven hours and more stringently less than six hours of sleep is associated with hypertension, coronary artery disease diabetes and increased mortality. There have been a multitude of studies over the years that have demonstrated that shortened sleep duration or less than six hours of sleep per night can be linked to an increased risk of heart disease, dying from stroke, increased coronary calcium deposits and worsening high blood pressure (hypertension)” Dr. Mahmood and Tallmadge said.


Watch out for these common warning signs for sleep apnea:

  • Snoring
  • Silent breathing pauses
  • Gasping or choking
  • Daytime sleepiness or fatigue

Be aware of these risk factors for sleep apnea:

  • Obesity (BMI of 30+)
  • Narrow airway
  • Large neck, tongue or tonsils
  • Recessed jaw

If one or more of these symptoms is affecting your sleep, an at-home sleep study may be a good first step to better sleep and better heart health.

Ready for a good night’s sleep that can improve your health? Call 903-531-8079 to schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified sleep medicine physicians.


  1. Academy of Sleep Medicine. Sleep Apnea Hurts Hearts. //