|Blood Pressure: Your Snoring May Keep it High
USA Weekend Magazine, April 3, 2006
by Susan T. Lennon
-- This is a longer version with more info for readers --
If you’ve tried treating your high blood pressure with more than three medications, and it’s still 140/90 or more, you could have sleep apnea!, Surprisingly common among people with resistant hypertension, a University of Alabama at Birmingham study shows that 85 percent of people with resistant hypertension suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), also known as “Sleep-Disordered Breathing” (SDB) – and most of them don’t know it.
The link between OSA/SDB and cardiovascular disease has long been known. This study shows that the more severe the apnea (characterized by daytime sleepiness, heavy snoring, and waking suddenly, gasping for air), the worse the hypertension – because every time you stop breathing, your blood oxygen decreases, causing the hormone aldosterone to rise. Responsible for balancing salt and water in the kidneys, too much can damage the blood vessels, which can in turn lead to uncontrolled high blood pressure – one source of heart disease and stroke – the first and third leading causes of death in the United States.
But, there’s good news, says Monique Pratt-Ubunama, M.D., lead researcher. “If you treat your apnea, your blood pressure will improve.” She encourages people with resistant high blood pressure to have their renin and aldosterone levels checked, and to ask for a sleep study – which most insurance plans cover. Your doctor may even offer you a new, FDA-approved home test, for a preliminary diagnosis.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, if you have mild sleep apnea, these lifestyle changes may be all that you need:
- Avoid alcohol, smoking, and medications that make you sleepy
- Lose weight if you are overweight
- Sleep on your side instead of your back
But, if you have moderate or severe sleep apnea, you’ll need additional treatments like the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine, custom-fitted mouthpiece, or possibly even surgery.