Can Sleep Apnea cause strokes?

by Laura
(Iowa)

My brother in law had a stroke and they are thinking it could be caused by sleep apnea. Is this true?

Answer


The most dangerous side effects of sleep apnea are heart attacks and strokes.

I will explain to you in a simple, non-technical way, how can a stroke and a heart attack appear in patients with obstructive sleep apnea.

While sleeping, your heart should be resting, at least beating slower. But with sleep apnea, the brain (noticing a lack of oxygen) instructs the heart to beat faster to get oxygen carrying blood to the brain.

Say someone with an AHI of 30, means this instruction is going through 30 times an hour: heart beating faster than it should 30 times an hour.

Some people have an AHI well in excess of 30 so you can see how the problem exacerbates.

This extra workload creates additional strain on the heart and can lead to an enlarged heart, or a heart attack or both. It can also lead to Congestive Heart Failure, as a complicating factor.


Stroke is another story and usually involves either insufficient blood (oxygen) getting to the brain or a sudden burst of blood to the brain, which will find any weakness in the blood vessels, resulting in leakage an/or stroke.

If there is a sudden blast of oxygen carrying blood to the brain 30 or more time an hour, you can see where problems can arise.

With all this extra activity going on, while you should be achieving rest, the health problems do mount.

I hope it helps. Don't be afraid to comment back.

Remy Thierry
Founder of Sleep Apnea Guide


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