Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Cardiovascular Disease

During an episode of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) where the upper airway collapses, the oxygen level in your blood decreases (hypoxia).  This is terminated by a sudden arousal or awakening from sleep at which time the oxygen level normalizes. This cyclic decrease in blood oxygen level followed by deoxygenation is a result of increased sympathetic activity in the body.   Think ‘flight or fight response’.  During this episode of increased activity, the heart rate increases, glucose increases, adrenal glands release norepinephrine and epinephrine among other changes.  This is non balanced state.  OSA causes increased sympathetic activity which has been proposed as a mechanism behind inflammation and cardiovascular disease.

The good news is that with PAP (Positive Airway Pressure) therapy, reduced sympathetic activity occurs and inflammation decreases which may decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease.

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