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  • Writer's pictureJames Waring

Under pressure with untreated sleep apnea

Untreated sleep apnea is linked to high blood pressure, also called hypertension. If you don't treat your sleep apnea, you have three times the chance of having high blood pressure compared to someone without sleep apnea.[1] But using CPAP to treat your sleep apnea can lower your risk of high blood pressure. Keep reading to find out how to decrease your risk.

Photo by CDC

High blood pressure and sleep apnea


People with untreated sleep apnea often have higher blood pressure than those without the condition. That link is substantial, with 50 out of 100 people with sleep apnea having high blood pressure. The more severe your sleep apnea is, the higher your risk of high blood pressure.[2]


Sleep apnea can cause your breathing to stop when you sleep. This means that your oxygen levels drop. This can happen more than 100 times in a single hour! When oxygen levels drop, your heart has to work harder to get your body oxygen.[1] This can make your blood pressure higher. Not getting good sleep from sleep apnea can make stress levels go up, which also increases your blood pressure.[3]


Using your CPAP can help lower your blood pressure


CPAP machines are the best treatment for sleep apnea. They keep the airway open and help people breathe easier. People with sleep apnea can lower their chance of having high blood pressure if they use a CPAP machine. Studies show that people who use the machine can have lower blood pressure and less risk of getting high blood pressure.[4] Using your CPAP machine for at least 5 hours each time you sleep can help reduce your risk of high blood pressure.[3]

“It can be said with absolute certainty that treating OSA [sleep apnea] reduces blood pressure, therefore reducing hypertension.” - Dr. Javier Nieto[5]

References

  1. Marin JM et a. Association between treated and untreated obstructive sleep apnea and risk of hypertension. JAMA 2012.

  2. Calhoun DA, Harding SM. Sleep and hypertension. Chest 2010.

  3. Barbe F et al. Long-term effect of continuous positive airway pressure in hypertensive patients with sleep apnea. Amer Journal of Resp and Crit Care Med 2009.

  4. Frost & Sullivan. Hidden health crisis costing America billions: Underdiagnosing and undertreating obstructive sleep apnea draining healthcare system. 2016

  5. Shapiro C et al. CPAP adherence: factors and perspectives. Springer 2022.

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