When a snorer repeatedly stops breathing for brief moments, it can lead to cardiovascular problems and potentially be life-threatening.
Obstructive sleep apnea is associated with 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 cardioembolic 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.
Hypo-apneas and apneas are known to cause death of brain cells from lack of oxygen and hypertension is a major risk factor for stroke. Treating hypertension can reduce the risk of stroke by 40%.Treating sleep apnea with CPAP which is the gold standard treatment modality will reduce blood pressure, the main risk factor for stroke, significantly reducing the chances of suffering a stroke. Treating sleep apnea has also been shown to reduce the risk of new problems occurring with the blood vessels and is known to improve quality of life and reduce the stroke mortality rate.