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Can Sleep Apnea Cause High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure and sleep apnea are two very different conditions, but you may be surprised to learn that there is a link between the two. Many potential factors can contribute to high blood pressure, but sleep apnea is a lesser-known potential cause that is important to treat to mitigate the risk of high blood pressure and other cardiovascular conditions. In this blog post, we’ll be exploring the link between the two and how treating one may reduce your risk for the other.

Understanding Sleep Apnea Symptoms

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that is characterized by breathing interruptions during sleep. These episodes can last for seconds or longer and occur multiple times throughout the night. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Persistent snoring
  • Gasping or choking while sleeping
  • Morning headaches
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness or fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Feeling groggy or tired despite getting a full night of sleep
  • Frequent waking throughout the night

Sleep apnea can sometimes be difficult to diagnose since some symptoms are common to other conditions. Also, you may not be aware of your snoring if you don’t sleep with a partner or share a home with someone. If you’re feeling the daytime symptoms of sleep apnea or frequent wakings during the night, it’s a good idea to get tested for this condition.

Even if you don’t have sleep apnea, you may unveil a different condition causing your symptoms. In any case, understanding and recognizing the symptoms is crucial so you can get treatment as soon as possible. You’ll not only improve your quality of sleep but also potentially reduce the risk of health complications like high blood pressure.

What Are the Causes?

Sleep apnea can be traced to various causes, ranging from lifestyle factors to underlying health conditions. A common cause of this condition is excess weight or obesity. Sleep apnea is typically a result of the airways being obstructed, leading to breathing difficulties. The excess weight can put pressure on the airways, leading to breathing problems during sleep. Sometimes, it may be caused by physical factors, such as larger tonsils.

Age and genetics can also play a role, with the muscles and tissues in the throat becoming more relaxed with age, potentially leading to airway obstruction. Certain underlying conditions such as nasal congestion and GERD can also contribute to sleep apnea. Substances like alcohol can also relax the muscles and cause airway obstructions.

Central sleep apnea is a rarer condition that occurs when the brain isn’t properly signaling the muscles to breathe. Regardless of the cause, it’s important to get treatment.

What Is High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a medical condition where the force of your blood against the walls of the arteries is consistently too high. Unfortunately, high blood pressure often has no noticeable symptoms, which can make it difficult to diagnose. This is why it’s important to get your regular health exams so your health care provider can monitor your blood pressure.

When blood pressure is consistently high, it can lead to a higher risk of various conditions such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and more. High blood pressure is a chronic condition that requires ongoing management, so it’s important to treat it and manage your blood pressure with the help of a medical professional.

With that being said, high blood pressure is very common and can be treated and managed. Now that we understand sleep apnea and hypertension, let’s take a look at the relationship between the two.

What Is the Relationship Between Sleep Apnea and Hypertension?

Research suggests that there is a link between sleep apnea and high blood pressure. The symptoms of sleep apnea may lead to an increased risk of high blood pressure or exacerbated symptoms if you already have hypertension. Since sleep apnea leads to interrupted breathing during sleep, your body is temporarily deprived of oxygen that flows through the blood. This increased stress on the cardiovascular system can result in elevated blood pressure, contributing to the development or worsening of hypertension.

Additionally, sleep apnea can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to sleep deprivation. Poor sleep quality and sleep deprivation are often linked to a myriad of other health issues, which can further exacerbate conditions like hypertension.

When To Seek Medical Attention

If you’re experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea, you should make an appointment with your health care provider as soon as possible. It can affect your quality of sleep, which impacts your daily life. Additionally, sleep deprivation and oxygen deprivation from this condition can lead to more serious health conditions down the line.

You should speak with your primary care provider about the symptoms you're experiencing. They may be able to determine you have sleep apnea, or they may refer you to a sleep specialist for further testing. Early detection and diagnosis of this condition can lead to timely treatment, allowing you to manage your condition and potentially reduce your risk of high blood pressure or other health complications. In short, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention as soon as you can.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

The first step to getting treatment for sleep apnea is to get a diagnosis from a health care professional. The best place to start is your primary care provider. They will likely be able to administer an at-home sleep test that they can review with a sleep specialist. If the results are inconclusive, they may recommend an in-person sleep study at a sleep lab, where you’ll be monitored overnight.

Once you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea, you can begin your treatment plan to manage symptoms. There are several treatment options available for this medical condition. They include:

  • CPAP Machine — A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device will often be recommended to treat sleep apnea. A CPAP device places a mask over your mouth and nose during sleep, which delivers a constant flow of air to keep your airway open. This can help to alleviate symptoms and improve sleep quality.
  • Oral appliances — Sometimes, an oral appliance will be recommended to keep your airway open.
  • Surgery — Surgery isn’t often the first treatment path recommended, but if you have physical abnormalities that make it difficult to keep your airways open, your doctor may suggest it.
  • Lifestyle changes — Various lifestyle changes like losing weight, avoiding alcohol and sedatives, quitting smoking and sleeping on your side may help to alleviate symptoms. 

As for hypertension, treatment will typically involve a combination of exercise, dietary changes and blood pressure medications. For both sleep apnea and hypertension, it’s important to speak with a health care professional so you can get the treatment you need. Regular follow-ups with your health care provider will allow them to monitor your progress and make adjustments to your treatment plan as necessary.

Book an appointment with a Circle Medical telehealth provider today!

If you suspect you have sleep apnea, make an appointment with a primary care provider as soon as possible. Circle Medical is a full-stack primary care clinic that offers diagnosis and treatment of various conditions, including sleep apnea. With Circle Medical, you can get both in-person and online care for your convenience. Make a same-day appointment with a Circle Medical telehealth provider today to get started.

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