Sleep Soundly for Your Heart (Heart Health)
Having high blood pressure and cholesterol can put you at risk for heart disease, but you may be overlooking another condition that could affect your health.
Sleep apnea is a serious disorder in which a person briefly and repeatedly stops breathing during sleep. People with untreated sleep apnea are more likely to have high blood pressure, a heart attack, congestive heart failure, or a stroke. Women are more likely to develop sleep apnea after menopause.
Being overweight, smoking, using alcohol or sleeping pills, or having a family history of sleep apnea raises the risks even more. Symptoms include heavy snoring and gasping or choking during sleep, along with extreme sleepiness during the day.
If you think you may have sleep apnea, ask your doctor for a test called a polysomnography, which is usually performed overnight in a sleep center. If you are overweight, even a small weight loss â€” 10 percent of your current weight â€” can relieve mild cases of sleep apnea. Other self-help treatments include quitting smoking and avoiding alcohol and sleeping pills. Sleeping on your side, rather than on your back, also may help. Some people benefit from a mechanical device that increases air pressure through the nasal passages. For very serious cases, surgery may be necessary.