The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Strokes

Restless SleepObstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can afflict a patient, yet go undiagnosed for years without the patient knowing he has a problem. Also common are patients who suspect a breathing issue while they sleep, but are afraid to seek a diagnosis and solution. OSA is potentially dangerous, and linked to several life-threatening conditions such as heart disease and stroke. In fact the Canadian Stroke Congress has guidelines to improve the screening process for sleep apnea, noting that not only can sleep apnea heighten risk for stroke, but stroke can heighten the risk for OSA. Des Moines, IA dentist, Dr. Stephen Burds, is concerned with the vicious cycle in this relationship.

About Obstructive Sleep Apnea

When a patient is afflicted with OSA, their brain is affected by the decreased flow of air. In some cases, brain activity temporarily stops during sleep, just like breathing. This increases the likelihood of succumbing to a stroke. Even when they take other precautions to guard their health, OSA patients can still have this heightened stroke risk. While many people (including doctors) focus on blood pressure and diabetes as precursors to stroke, OSA should be of equal concern. Dr. Brian Murray is the associate professor of neurology and sleep medicine at the University of Toronto. He notes that 4% of the world population has severe sleep apnea. More than 10% of the population has mild to moderate OSA. In the grand scheme of an entire population, this is a great many people that should be concerned with their heightened risk of stroke.

Where There’s Stroke, There’s Fire

Dr. Murray states that “there are ways to prevent sleep apnea from occurring.”  Maintaining a healthy weight is a good start. Avoiding substances (such as alcohol and sedatives) that relax your airways, especially right before bed, is another good preventive tactic. When someone stops breathing because of sleep apnea, they often have a panicky arousal response. This can be an issue even after a stroke, as you recover, because of the poor sleep quality and continuation of the cycle. OSA, thereby, increases chances of a second stroke. as well.

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