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Heart Failure & Potential Complications From Sleep Apnea

May 16, 2008
While medical researchers have already outlined the serious concerns associated with sleep apnea, a recent study links a dangerous and fatal complication for patients who have heart failure. As sleep apnea sufferers experience bouts of decreased or interrupted breathing, the brain, which is deprived of oxygen in this case, is unable to send out the necessary messages to the respiratory muscles, telling them to inhale and exhale. This causes breathing to stop for several seconds to possibly a minute. These episodes may happen many times in the course of a night's sleep, which creates a special concern for patients who are already diagnosed with heart problems.

Special Concerns

Heart failure patients need to be aware of extra complications from sleep apnea. Heart failure is simply defined as a disorder where the heart isn't able to pump enough blood to supply the amount of oxygen needed by the body and essential nutrients. Oxygen is the most important thing here. In both sleep apnea and heart failure, there is a decreased supply of oxygen. If a person has both conditions, the lack of supply of oxygen is doubled and that can be dangerous.

A person suffering from heart failure is at a higher risk of dying during an episode of sleep apnea. The lower oxygen level in the body may also damage major organs as well as resulting in psychological problems from insufficient sleep.

What Can Be Done?

If you have both heart failure and sleep apnea, there are ways to help you. Because of a recent study, doctors are now prescribing acetazolamide, which is a mild diuretic and respiratory stimulant. This prescription drug is taken before going to bed and it has been shown to improve oxygen levels and to diminish sleep apnea problems. People who participated in this study noted they were less tired during the daytime and they were better able to concentrate.

This medical study has been groundbreaking because previously, there wasn't considered to be a solid concern between heart failure and sleep apnea. Now, doctors are aware of the doubling effect each of these conditions has on a patient, through their combined effect on oxygen levels. Patients who are being treated for heart failure should also consult with their doctors about the possibility of sleep apnea being present.

Although sleep apnea is very common, most of the time people are unaware they have this disorder. A proper diagnosis and treatment plan will provide both a restful night's sleep as well as a safer one.
About the Author
Wondering what you can do about snoring and sleep apnea? A look at some sleep apnea statistics will tell you that you're not the only one dealing with it. Find out how to identify sleep apnea as well as the treatments for it on the Apnea Guide website.
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