Sleep Apnea is associated obesity which is also a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Besides obesity contributing to sleep apnea, sleep deprivation caused by sleep apnea can lead to further obesity. Moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) has been shown to increase the risk of ischemic stroke, by as much as three times in men.
Although sleep apnea frequently goes undiagnosed, population-based studies indicate that as many as 1 in 15 adults has moderate to severe OSA It may be that OSA leads to structural and physiologic changes in the heart that can predispose patients to cardio embolic stroke via mechanisms other than atrial fibrillation Whether or not sleep apnea was present before stroke, most patients experience OSA after stroke. OSA in stroke patients is associated with early neurologic worsening, decreased functional recovery and increased mortality.
People with sleep apnea experience a number of symptoms that may predispose them to stroke, like repetitive drops in oxygen levels during the night which places stress on the heart and brain, and an increase in sympathetic nervous system activity leading to the narrowing of blood vessels, increased heart rate and hypertension.