Sleep Apnea, Hypertension, and Their Health Effects

Boutique Dentistry for Nashville, Tennessee

Many people know that hypertension is serious. They know it can have a significant impact on the health of your heart. But not everyone understands that the effects of hypertension don’t stop with your heart. Instead, hypertension can damage almost every system in your body.

And even fewer people understand that sleep apnea is just as dangerous to the body–if not more so–as hypertension. That’s why we want to focus on the negative health impacts that overlap between the two conditions.

The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Hypertension

Did you know that sleep apnea is a leading cause of hypertension? In fact, the presence of hypertension is considered to be a characteristic sign of sleep apnea.

How does sleep apnea cause hypertension? Sleep apnea occurs when the airway closes, cutting off the body’s access to air. In response, the brain awakens slightly and orders the heart to pump harder to bring more oxygen to the brain.

Over time, these short-term boosts in heart activity can disrupt your body’s regulatory mechanisms that keep blood pressure in check. Your heart works harder all the time, driving blood pressure up and straining the heart.

Because sleep apnea is constantly driving hypertension, your blood pressure may not respond to conventional treatments. So-called drug-resistant hypertension is strongly associated with sleep apnea.

Dangers of Hypertension and Sleep Apnea

Your blood travels to all corners of your body, carrying vital nutrients. Unfortunately, this means that high blood pressure can bring damage to all corners of your body. Some of the more important health consequences of hypertension include:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Loss of vision
  • Kidney disease
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Osteoporosis

Hypertension can lead to heart disease because it is constantly straining the heart. It can lead to heart pains, called angina, or heart failure.

High blood pressure can stress the delicate blood vessels in the brain, causing them to burst. This is what is known as a hemorrhagic stroke. The high blood pressure can also dislodge plaque in the arteries and carry it to the brain, where it blocks blood vessels in an ischemic stroke.

Vision loss due to glaucoma and retinopathy are commonly associated with high blood pressure. High blood pressure is associated with elevated eye fluid pressure, which can damage the optic nerve, leading to vision loss (glaucoma). High blood pressure can also cause vision loss by damaging your retina (retinopathy).

Hypertension causes kidney damage because it can damage or clog the vital blood filters in the kidneys.

Sexual dysfunction occurs because high blood pressure interferes with the mechanisms for an erection. High blood pressure and its medications can also depress sexual desire.

High blood pressure also leaches calcium from the bones, reducing bone density and leading to osteoporosis.

Treat Sleep Apnea, Treat Hypertension

Fortunately, although the health impacts of this condition may be diffused throughout the body, treatment can be very focused. Treating sleep apnea can reduce your blood pressure. And sleep apnea treatment doesn’t have to be a bulky CPAP machine: oral appliances are just as good at reducing blood pressure as CPAP is.

If you are looking for a comfortable, convenient sleep apnea treatment in Nashville, TN, please call (615) 383-6787 today for an appointment with expert sleep dentist Dr. Kent E. White at the Center for Advanced Dentistry.