Hypertension Sleep Apnea – Is There a Relationship Between Sleep Apnea and Hypertension?
The problem of hypertension sleep apnea has come under the scrutiny of researchers. Why is this a problem that should need their special attention? Considering that approximately 10% of women and 25% of men suffer from sleep apnea, that should be enough to answer the question. This condition often doesn’t show any symptoms and is quite common, as you can see from the above mentioned figures.
It seems there is a correlation between the well known risk factors for hypertension, like alcohol, smoking and obesity, and the sleep apnea (SA). But these factors do not explain completely all cases. People with obesity that also have sleeping apnea have a higher risk of heart diseases, and consequently, hypertension.
The explanation is that during the apneas the level of carbon dioxide rises in the blood, while the oxygen level is dropping, that in turn leading to a cascade of chemical and physical processes which increases the risk of hypertension sleep apnea, or heart diseases in general.
In the body of sleep apnea sufferers, and especially in those who are obese, there is a high level of immune factors called tumor necrosis, especially those who are obese. These two immune factors are factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and interleukin 6 (IL-6).
High levels of TNF-alpha and IL-6 in the body damages the cells, including the cells of the arteries. One study has shown that a high level of TNF-alpha is associated with fatigue, shortness of breath, and a weak heart-pumping action.
At this time, however, research hasn’t been able to establish a strong relationship with these health conditions.
A series of studies have proved that there is a strong relation between sleeping apnea and hypertension. One study that was done in 2000 has taken into consideration patients for a 4 years period. The study has shown that patients who in the first year had greater numbers of apnea episodes have developed in the fourth year hypertension. Even those who snore or have a mild apnea have shown the existence of a weak, but still higher than normal, correlation with hypertension.
Until recently has been thought that the correlation between SA and hypertension was due to obesity. But the recent studies have discovered that there is a stronger possibility to link hypertension and sleeping apnea even in people who are not obese.
The way sleep apnea affects the blood pressure, regardless of risk factors, can be explained by the fact that blood pressure fluctuates largely and significantly as a reaction to the episodes of apnea and hipoapnea.
These kind of fluctuations can be triggered by a surge of the sympathetic nervous system (this was also associated with SA), which controls the involuntary muscles, like the ones in the heart and blood vessels.
As time passes by, these fluctuations can lead to a permanent hypertension, or a hypertension sleep apnea.