Monday, January 18, 2010

Sleep apneas and heart conditions

Hey again, so while browsing the web I came across an article, which can be read here, that discusses a relationship between sleep apnea and certain heart conditions, such as high blood pressure or abnormal heart beats. Although this article does not clearly differentiate between obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea, the overall theme of the article suggests to me that the effects of sleep apnea on the heart is relevant for both conditions. The connection between sleep apnea and most heart conditions is that sleep apnea contributes to a decline in the amount of blood oxygen available to the body, a condition termed hypoxia, because of the interruption of normal breathing patterns. When the heart doesn't recieve enough oxygenated blood, it is termed ischemic. Both obstructive and central sleep apnea reduce the amount of oxygen in the blood, which then reduces the amount of oxygenated blood going to the heart muscle. Therefore, obstructive and central sleep apnea can cause heart ischemia. Overtime, a person with obstructive or central sleep apnea that causes episodes of heart ischemia can develop areas of heart muscle that have been damaged.

What is significant about damage to heart muscle, among other things, is that heart beats depend on an electrical current that follows a specific track. Consider the blue line monorail in Chicago as the heart. The beat starts in O'Hare, and ends in Forrest Park. Normally, the "L" (heart beat) runs smoothly from start to finish because each station is in good working order. Now let's say that the Division street station is down. You'd most likely get off at that station and ride a bus to the next station, then get back on the blue line after a short detour. You'd end up getting to your destination eventually, but that detour made your commute a little longer than normal and stressed you out a little more than usual. The same thing happens to the heart and heart beat when it has areas of damage in the muscle. Think of damage to the heart muscle as that downed Division street station. The beat will get to its destination eventually, but the heart will have to work a little harder and take a little longer to get it there. Both obstructive and central sleep apnea can cause these pockets of heart muscle damage, and contribute to abnormal beats or simply stress the heart out more than usual. Increased stress over time can cause the heart muscle to thicken, stiffen, and pump less effectively, which can lead to high blood pressure. These are further reasons why obstructive and central sleep apnea are causes for concern, and why awareness needs to be raised. Was that analogy of the heart beat and Chicago's monorail too dense or was it helpful? I'd appreciate any feedback.

Mike, M. RN BSN
owner of


  1. I'm about to undertake an alternative treatment for sleep apnea from my dentist (Memphis, TN). My sleep apnea has been bothering for quite a while now, and now that more risks are now discovered to have something to do with this, there's no better time than now to get treatment. I'll entrust this to my dentist. Memphis, with its skillful medical professionals, in indeed promising for patients like myself.

  2. Mike, I like your discription of the detours creating muscle pockets. I get it. Thanks Karen

  3. The description seems informative! Question: Are there any statistics on how many or what percent of apnea patients indeed develop some heart damage from it? If not official statistics--do you have an impression of whether this commonly occurs? Thanks so much!
    Val-a central sleep apnea patient
    PS-Any comments on autoSV vs VPAP for treating?

  4. I am not so sure how true this actually is, I was 47 before I got diagnosed with sleep apnea and I am fine, I have been using a CPAP machine now for a few years and my health is no different. I even had surgery for my snoring problem too, now that was worth it I highly recommend that.

  5. I read your post. I found it appropriate information in concern of Sleep apneas and heart conditions