The dangers of untreated sleep apnea

The dangers of untreated sleep apnea
You must try yoga for sleep apnea © Shutterstock

If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to heart disease, heart attack, hypertension and diabetes.

Written by Bhavyajyoti Chilukoti |Updated : July 21, 2017 4:01 PM IST

Occasional whistling, grunting, snorting and making buzz-saw-like sounds was part of a normal sleeping pattern for Ritu, a 28-year-old PhD student. But it was never a cause of concern for her until she realised that it s not simple snoring, but a chronic medical condition. Ritu has never been the best sleeper, but during her recent visit to my place when we shared a bed, I realised that she s not simply snoring. She repeatedly stopped breathing, then started again with a loud snort that often woke her up and kept me up all night, shared Ritu s sister.

Ritu was suffering from a common sleep disorder, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which can pose serious health risks that can even be life-threatening if left undiagnosed and untreated. In OSA, airways become so obstructed that it interrupts breathing reducing the oxygen levels in the body. This happens repetitively and in longer term generates a response from the body which often leads to health problems like high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke or obesity. Dr PP Bose, Pulmonologist, Founder,Saans Foundation, New Delhi sheds light on sleep apnea and the dangers of it, it left unchecked.

Sleep apnea is one of the most ignored health conditions. While many remain simply unaware of it, others, who are aware of their sleep disorder, usually are not informed about severe consequences of untreated sleep apnea. According to a 2009 study done by AIIMS, 13% of Indian population is reported with OSA, out of which only 4% have it checked out by a doctor. Also, it was found 3 times more prevalent in men than women. Read about 7 signs you have sleep apnea.

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There is increasing evidence that sleep apnea can have an adverse impact on the health of a person. OSA increases the heart rate and causes high BP which ultimately increases the pressure on the heart. One of the causes for this might be that sleep apnea often reduces blood oxygen levels which are responsible for activating that specific part of the nervous system which increases the performance of the heart. Moreover, OSA is also said to cause hypertension and diabetes, putting you at high risk of health issues related to the lungs, heart and the brain. According to the National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research, nearly 38,000 deaths occur on an annual basis on account of cardiovascular problems that, in one way or another, had sleep apnea as an underlying cause. Here are 7 reasons you should take snoring seriously.

Snoring with breathing problem cannot be ignored as it may be a sign of a serious disorder, Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Untreated OSA can cause serious health conditions that many times may even result in death. People, who let this condition go unchecked, are four times more at risk of developing stroke and three times more risk of having a heart disease than those who are not afflicted. It is also linked to a host of serious health conditions like diabetes, metabolic syndrome, increased weight gain, cardiac arrhythmias, heart attacks, heart failure, memory impairment, premature ageing and even sudden death.

One of the other aspects sleep apnea is related to road safety. Due to sleep apnea associated sleeplessness and inability to concentrate, every year, 100,000 car accidents, 40,000 injuries, and 1,550 deaths are reported, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These consequences lead to a significant number of occupational injuries, reduced work performance, reduced the quality of life and an additional economic burden due to healthcare utilisation. Medical expenditure can be decreased with timely diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea. Also read about yoga asanas to combat sleep apnea.

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