Sleep Apnea and High Blood Pressure: Everything You Need to Know

For sleep apnea patients, the damaging effects of this sleep disorder are familiar: disrupted sleep, resultant exhaustion, and daytime sleepiness are the unfortunate, yet primary consequences faced regularly by those struggling with sleep apnea. The harmful effects of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) on our bodies are more significant than most people understand and can impact the proper functioning of our key bodily processes and faculties. Among the most serious consequences of sleep apnea: high blood pressure.

The human body relies on the circulatory system to supply oxygenated blood to our organs. When the heart beats, it creates a pressure that moves blood through the body- this pressure is known as blood pressure. High blood pressure (or hypertension) occurs when one’s blood pressure is higher than normal.1 In this blog, we’ll discuss the particulars of hypertension, the role obstructive sleep apnea plays in contributing to it, risk factors, cpap therapy, and more.

Risk Factors

While some risk factors for hypertension cannot be changed- such as family history, gender, age, and race- many risk factors are avoidable if the proper measures are taken. Some key risk factors people should be aware of are:

- Obesity

- Unhealthy diet **

- Stress

- Diabetes

- Smoking

… And, unbeknown to many, obstructive sleep apnea! While the factors above may not always cause high blood pressure, individuals that have or engage in them are at increased risk of developing this medical condition.

** Did you know an unhealthy diet can also contribute to sleep apnea? Check out our blog “How Food Can Help Sleep Apnea” to learn more!

How to Determine if You Have High Blood Pressure

Because hypertension does not typically have any symptoms, the only way to truly know if you have hypertension is to have a doctor measure it for you. Blood pressure is measured using two numbers: systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure. Systolic blood pressure refers to the pressure that occurs each time the heart beats and pumps blood, whereas diastolic blood pressure is the pressure that occurs in between heart beats. Blood pressure is recorded as systolic blood pressure/diastolic blood pressure.

A normal blood pressure range is less than 120/80 mm Hg and hypertension is 140+/90+ mm Hg.1 Individuals who have normal blood pressure are referred to as normotensive and those with high blood pressure are referred to as hypertensive patients.

Preventative Measures and Management

While you may still be susceptible to developing high blood pressure, due to non-modifiable factors, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of facing this medical condition and managing it if you do have it. Many cardiology specialists will recommend the following to maintain a healthy blood pressure range:

- “Regular physical exercise- recommended one engages in at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week

- Not smoking

- Maintaining a healthy diet and weight

- Stress management

- Medication- a doctor may prescribe medication (i.e. antihypertensive medication) to help manage high blood pressure if deemed medically necessary”1

The more you commit to these measures, the better; engaging in these measures will not only reduce your risk of developing or help you manage high blood pressure, but will also promote your overall health and wellbeing!

How Sleep Apnea Contributes to High Blood Pressure

Sleep apnea is an additional, yet often overlooked, risk factor for hypertension. An individual suffering from obstructive sleep apnea will often have considerable upper airway obstruction that makes it difficult to breathe properly during sleep, causing OSA patients to stop breathing repeatedly throughout the nighttime. These cessations of breathing- called apneas- cause the individual’s oxygen levels to drop. The decrease in oxygen levels prompts the brain to increase blood flow, so as to provide necessary oxygen to the body’s vital organs, which causes blood pressure to rise.

Individuals with severe OSA may be more susceptible to hypertension; due to the significant impact their frequent apneas have on their oxygen levels, patients with severe OSA should pay particular attention to their blood pressure. Because hypertension is frequently associated with sleep apnea, individuals with high blood pressure may also have obstructive sleep apnea and not even know it! Interested in learning if you have sleep apnea? Take our sleep apnea quiz to find out!

Health Concerns Related to Hypertension

High blood pressure can have serious consequences if left unmanaged. Because hypertension interferes with the proper functioning of the circulatory system, it can be detrimental to one’s health. Hypertensive patients are at increased risk of developing serious medical conditions such as cardiovascular diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), high blood pressure can cause the following:

- Cardiovascular problems

Including heart attack, heart disease, and heart failure

- Angina (chest pain)

- Stroke and brain problems

Strokes can cause speech and movement disabilities or even death

In addition to strokes, high blood pressure is has been associated with worsening cognitive function and dementia

- Kidney Disease1

Can a CPAP Machine Help Improve Hypertension?

CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines are integral to the treatment of OSA and have been shown to greatly improve both the sleep quality and overall health of users.

During CPAP therapy, a CPAP machine delivers pressurized air to the sleep apnea patient’s upper airway, helping him/her breathe properly during sleep. By supplying additional air, and therefore increasing oxygen levels, CPAP machines may also help improve hypertension. Preliminary research suggests that CPAP therapy may help OSA patients who also struggle with high blood pressure.

According to the American College of Cardiology, CPAP machines may be “especially effective in patients with resistant hypertension**, serving as a potential treatment for these high-risk patients.”2 However, further research is required to confirm these findings.

** resistant hypertension refers to hypertension that does not respond to high blood pressure treatment or medication2; resistant hypertension is a serious condition that poses increased cardiovascular risks.

Interested in Purchasing a CPAP?

At Health Sqyre, we have a great selection of top-rated CPAP machines, masks, and more for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). We’ll ensure you are getting the best CPAP treatment and nighttime sleep quality you need and deserve! Interested in speaking with a representative about your CPAP therapy? Contact us via call or email and our customer service team will be happy to answer all your sleep apnea questions!

Sources:

1 High Blood Pressure Symptoms and Causes,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/about.htm

2 “Sleep Apnea and High Blood Pressure A Dangerous Pair,” American College of Cardiology, https://www.cardiosmart.org/news/2015/5/sleep-apnea-and-high-blood-pressure-a-dangerous-pair

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