The Link between Sleep Apnea and Heart Disease
Submitted by Michael R. Cortese, D.M.D. on Sun 12/04/2016 - 09:00
Earlier this year, Dr. Michael Cortese blogged about the long-term health effects of sleep apnea. In the post, he mentioned the relationship between sleep apnea and heart disease. While it is unclear whether the sleep disorder causes heart disease, Dr. Cortese and fellow sleep apnea specialists know that the sleep disorder triples the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. This is a topic that Dr. Cortese feels deserves its own post.
How Sleep Apnea Raises the Risk of Heart Disease
Up until recently, doctors believed that the repeated cessations in breath experienced by people with sleep apnea caused blood oxygen levels to plummet, stressing the body and heightening the risk of heart attack. However, new research from Columbia University suggests that cholesterol is actually the missing link between sleep apnea and heart disease.
Cholesterol is a substance that the body produces naturally; it can also be found in certain foods. High levels of cholesterol in the body can clog the arteries, leading to heart problems.
Normally, there is a protein called CD59 on the surface of the cells in the blood vessels that protects the cells from injury. However, the Columbia team found that people with obstructive sleep apnea have lower levels of CD59. Low levels of oxygen, caused by the repeated cessation in breath, prevents the cells from purging excess cholesterol; instead, the cholesterol builds up inside the cells, sucking up the protective CD59 proteins and making the cells vulnerable to damage and inflammation.
The researchers discovered that one specific subgroup of sleep apnea patients actually maintained normal levels of CD59 — the individuals taking drugs called statins to decrease cholesterol. These drugs allow more CD59 proteins to remain on the surface of the cells, protecting them from injury and lowering the inflammation that can lead to heart disease.
These findings indicate that statins may complement sleep apnea treatment and help lower the risk of cardiovascular problems.
Sleep apnea can raise the risk of other serious health problems, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Do You Have Sleep Apnea?
If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, or are experiencing symptoms, Dr. Cortese can help. Please contact Princeton Prosthodontics to schedule a consultation with the sleep apnea authority and learn more about the available treatment options. Call or email us today.