What are the risks of untreated sleep apnea?

Sleep should be restful. It should restore your inner and outer self. And it should give your mind a chance to process all that you’ve experienced throughout your day. People with sleep apnea aren’t necessarily getting those benefits. They often wake up feeling exhausted, and their snoring may be keeping their spouses up, too.

Sleep apnea, however, is more than an inconvenient interruption. While scientists can’t pinpoint exactly why sleep is important, they do know that it’s crucial to your health and well-being. Sleep apnea is a serious health condition. Untreated, sleep apnea increases your risk for:
  • high blood pressure
  • heart attack
  • heart failure
  • arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
  • stroke
  • obesity
  • diabetes                                                                          
  • work-related accidents
  • car accidents
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It's important that you get a diagnosis and treatment for sleep apnea as soon as possible because the condition is associated with heart rhythm problems, high blood pressure (experienced by an estimated 50% of people with sleep apnea) and a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. Other possible consequences of sleep apnea include depression, irritability, sexual dysfunction, nocturia (the need to urinate several times a night), learning and memory difficulties and falling asleep while at work, on the phone or driving. Studies also suggest that sleep apnea may negatively affect blood sugar control in people with diabetes.

Sleep-disordered breathing or sleep apnea is a potentially serious problem that can result in low oxygen levels, confusion, hypertension, cardiac arrhythmias and severe daytime sleepiness. This condition is more common in older individuals and should be checked by a doctor.

Steven C. Smart, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
The risks of untreated sleep apnea are uncontrolled high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, heart failure, heart attack, stroke, sudden death, kidney failure, poor quality of life and very frequent health problems.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.