Have you been told by your doctor that you have high blood pressure? If so, you’re in good company. About one in three American adults has high blood pressure. The condition is so common that there’s a danger of people taking it too casually. But that would be a mistake because hypertension can be a deadly condition due to its numerous complications.
And it’s important to understand that sleep apnea is often related to hypertension. In fact, sleep apnea can cause hypertension, drive it, and make it resistant to common treatments. Often, treating sleep apnea is a crucial part of treating your hypertension.
Serious Heart Risks
The greatest danger from hypertension is related to your heart. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US for both men and women. Hypertension contributes to this risk. When your heart is constantly straining to drive blood at an elevated pressure, it can suffer from the strain.
At first, you may notice soreness in your chest (angina) as a result. In the future, this angina may develop into serious heart problems. This can include arrhythmia, heart failure, heart attack, and other potentially deadly effects on your heart.
Deadly Stroke Risk
While hypertension is stressing your heart, it can also drive dangerous complications anywhere there are blood vessels. This includes strokes resulting from your high blood pressure. High blood pressure can dislodge arterial plaque, causing it to travel to narrower arteries, blocking them. This cuts off blood flow, causing what is known as an ischemic stroke. Both the heart and brain can be affected by this type of stroke.
Hypertension can also cause another type of stroke in the brain. The blood pressure can damage blood vessels, causing them to rupture. As blood pools in the brain, it increases pressure that slowly presses blood vessels closed and cutting off the flow of fresh blood in the brain. This is known as a hemorrhagic stroke.
Damage to Your Entire Body
And while damage to your heart and brain may be the most serious consequences of your sleep apnea, it’s important to understand that high blood pressure can damage essentially every part of your body. For example:
Vision loss: Vision loss can occur when the pressure inside your eye damages the optic nerve, a condition known as glaucoma. This is related to hypertension. High blood pressure can also damage the retina, the light-sensitive cells at the back of your eye, leading to vision loss.
Sexual dysfunction: Sexual dysfunction can occur because high blood pressure reduces a man’s ability to get or maintain an erection. High blood pressure can also reduce libido for both men and women.
Kidney damage: The kidneys’ function is to filter the blood. High blood pressure strains this system, reducing its effectiveness. Decreased function and even kidney failure can result.
Osteoporosis: You might think that your bones would be immune to hypertension, but some of the hormones involved in high blood pressure can leach calcium from your bones. The calcium is flushed out of the body, and you are left with more brittle bones.
Is Sleep Apnea Contributing to Your Hypertension?
If you have hypertension, you need to understand whether sleep apnea is playing a role in the condition. Watch out for common sleep apnea symptoms like:
- Daytime sleepiness
- Morning headaches
- Dozing off during the day
- Memory problems
- Depression or other mood disorders
If you have these symptoms as well as hypertension, then you should talk to your doctor about sleep apnea.