Can Sleep Apnea Lead to an Unhealthy Heart?

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Man sleeping on side snoring; wife in backgroundMost people don’t realize they’re suffering from sleep apnea until they’ve received a proper diagnosis. As such, it’s fairly easy to overlook the potentially devastating effect the condition could have on your health. Sleep apnea can cause your breathing to stop 5 to 30 times every hour while you’re asleep, and the loss of oxygen can put a strain on your body – and that naturally includes your heart. Read on to learn more about the connection between breathing-related sleep disorders and heart health – and why being proactive about improving the quality of your slumber might save your life.

What Link Has Been Found Between Sleep Apnea and Heart Health?

According to Harvard Medical School, patients with untreated sleep apnea are up to five times more likely to experience a fatal heart disease. Furthermore, roughly 47 to 83 percent of patients with cardiovascular disease are also found to have sleep apnea. Note that this link may be partially due to the fact that heart problems and breathing-related sleep disorders are both connected to obesity. That said, the direct effect of sleep apnea on your heart cannot be overlooked.

How Does Sleep Apnea Damage Your Heart?

During sleep apnea, breathing is repeatedly stopped, causing oxygen levels in your body to drop. As a result, your brain will release adrenaline due to the stress that a lack of oxygen places on your body. If adrenaline levels remain high for an extended amount of time, your blood pressure will rise. High blood pressure can easily lead to stroke and heart disease – two leading causes of death and disability in the United states.

Do You Have Sleep Apnea?

It’s estimated that about 20 percent of adults have some form of sleep apnea. Anyone can suffer from the condition, but it tends to be more common in men as well as people who are overweight. The most noticeable sign of sleep apnea is typically loud snoring, which will most likely be reported by a roommate or sleeping partner. Other symptoms are more subtle, but they might include chronic exhaustion, insomnia, occasionally waking up gasping for air, general irritability, and weight gain.

What to Do About Sleep Apnea

The good news is that you can reverse much of the impact sleep apnea has on your health by having the disorder properly treated. After having a sleep study performed, you can talk to a sleep dentist about getting an oral appliance that keeps your airway open so that you don’t have to worry about it becoming blocked at night. Different appliances might be used depending on your needs and the severity of …

To Breathe, or Not to Breathe, That is the Question: The Face Mask Controversy

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I couldn’t understand why my head was throbbing. I wasn’t feeling well at all. There was no fever or any other signs or symptoms of an infection. I had eaten a healthy dinner before starting my 12-hour overnight shift in the ICU. 

It was 3 AM, and my four patients were relatively stable. I decided to go to the break room to eat a snack. A few minutes after taking off my N95 mask, my headache went away completely. I felt my scalp with my fingers and noticed two deep crevices where the tight elastic bands had left their marks. The mask had clearly cut off blood flow to my scalp.

After returning to the nursing station in front of my patients, I noticed that I was more clear-headed and less anxious. The few minutes of escape from my mask with unrestricted blood flow to my scalp and normal breathing without a mask was liberating.

The Face Mask Controversy

During the past few months of the coronavirus pandemic, there have been a number of recommendations by The World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that have been reversed, or even contradictory. The recommendation for using a face-mask is one of such guidelines, with conflicting studies, changing recommendations, and even a study publication retraction. 

Several studies from past pandemics as well as recent ones suggest that using a face mask (non-N95) may lower the rate of virus transmission. Other studies have refuted such findings. However, I am not going to address whether or not face masks can potentially reduce infections. There are so many variables that affect rates of transmission, I don’t think there ever will be a definitive answer. What I wish to focus on in this blog article are the documented side-effects of using a face mask.

Comparing Apples to Oranges

In contrast to rigorously controlled research studies, regular people who wear face masks us a variety of different masks. There are countless other variables, such as the fit, facial shapes and sizes, mask materials, and even your ability to breathe normally without a mask. To ask whether or not a face mask works is not the right question. What we should be asking is, to what degree does a specific type of mask, if worn and used properly, offer protection from transmitting or being infected with the coronavirus, compared to the potential side effects. Just like any prescription medication, there are side effects. Some people will have more side effects than others.

Known Complications of Face Mask Use

Any type of mask or covering over your nose and …

The Surprising Link Between Vitamin D and the Sleep Neurotransmitter Acetylcholine [Podcast #91]

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Interview With Doctor Stasha Gominak

Please join me on this fascinating interview with Dr. Stasha Gominak, where she will give us an update on Vitamin D and the gut biome. Dr. Gominak’s two past interviews were two of the most popular downloaded podcast episodes.

In this 84 minute interview, she will discuss:

  • How vitamin D is linked to acetylcholine, an important brain neurotransmitter
  • Acetylcholine’s role in sleep
  • New findings about vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid).

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Show Notes

Dr. Stasha Gominak’s website


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