New Study on Sleep Apnea and Heart Risks

Roughly one-fifth of American adults suffer from obstructive sleep apnea – a chronic condition that can triple one’s risk for heart disease. For years, doctors have been trying to figure out why this relatively common disorder can cause patients to be at a higher risk for heart attacks, and, according to a new study conducted at Columbia University, high cholesterol levels may be the answer.

Statin use lowered heart attack risk in sleep apnea patients

Researchers determined that cholesterol seems to play an important role in raising the risk of cardiovascular disease in patients with sleep apnea. Dr. Sanja Jelic and colleagues found that a key protein – known as CD59 – on blood vessel cell linings have a protective effect on the rise and fall of oxygen levels during sleep. In his study, Jelic found that people with high cholesterol levels lose the protective benefits of this protein, which eventually causes cells to become damaged, inflamed and die.

However, Jelic and his team discovered that sleep apnea patients who took statins – drugs that help lower blood cholesterol levels – had normal amounts of CD59, and thus were at less risk of cardiovascular problems. The findings suggest that statins may prove useful in lowering risk of heart attack and/or stroke in sleep apnea patients, says Dr. Klar Yaggi, a sleep and heart specialist at Yale School of Medicine: “Statins might complement sleep apnea treatment and play a very important part in reducing cardiovascular risk in sleep apnea patients.”

Sleep apnea affects heart health

Obstructive sleep apnea causes the upper airway to partially collapse, resulting in periodic pauses of breathing. Momentarily choked of oxygen, sufferers will gasp and wake before falling back asleep. This cycle can repeat itself upwards of 30 times a night, causing loud snoring, extensive sleep deprivation, daytime fatigue and a host of related problems.

If left unchecked, sleep apnea can lead to heart arrhythmias, increase the chance of work or driving accidents, and heighten the risk of hypertension and heart disease.

Beyond these negative implications, Dr. Yaggi explains that sleep apnea, which causes transient awakenings throughout the night, may cause blood clots to form, thus putting patients at a greater risk for heart attacks.

Statins may be useful for protecting heart health in sleep apnea patients, but the medications can’t stop people from choking at night. Over time, his fragmented sleep leads to a poor quality of life.

Treatments for sleep apnea

Lifestyle changes, breathing devices such as a CPAP machine, mouthpieces and surgery are all useful in addressing the debilitating effects of sleep apnea. Patients who suffer from mild to moderate sleep apnea often benefit from oral appliance therapy – a custom mouthpiece created by your dentist.

An oral appliance works by keeping your airway open during sleep, and eliminates the need and expensive for a bulky CPAP mask that can cause dry mouth, headaches and skin irritation.

If used consistently, oral appliance therapy can restore regular breathing at night and significantly reduce snoring and daytime fatigue.

NYC sleep apnea dentist

If you’re one of the thousands of Long Islanders suffering from this debilitating disorder, Long Island Implant and Cosmetic Dentistry offers sleep apnea treatment with oral appliance therapy at our Suffolk County dental practice. To learn more, we invite you to call 631-296-0588 to arrange a private consultation.

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Ryan Green

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