With more Americans living longer than ever, heart failure is on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than six million American adults have heart failure, but contrary to popular belief, the term “heart failure” doesn’t mean your heart has stopped beating. Rather, heart failure is a serious condition in which your heart doesn’t pump enough blood for your body to function at its best.
Unfortunately, the signs of heart failure can be difficult to spot, and early symptoms often go unnoticed. Signs of heart failure include shortness of breath during daily activities, difficulty breathing when lying down, weight gain, swelling and fatigue. In addition, studies show that one particular thing you do at night can increase your risk of heart failure. Read on to find out what it is and how it can put your heart at risk.
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If you wake up tired or have trouble keeping your eyes open during the day despite getting a full night’s sleep, you could be suffering from a common condition that can lead to heart failure. According to a 2018 study published in the Texas Heart Institute Journalthis sleep problem is linked to many heart-related problems, such as hypertension, coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, sudden cardiac death, and heart failure.
There are two types of heart failure: systolic and diastolic. Systolic heart failure occurs when your heart’s left ventricle doesn’t fully contract, preventing your heart from pumping enough blood around your body. Diastolic heart failure occurs when less blood is pumped around your body because the left ventricle is not filling with blood properly.
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Sleep apnea is a common condition where your breathing stops throughout the night and starts often. This prevents your body from getting enough oxygen and puts you at risk for health complications. There are two different types of sleep apnea associated with heart failure: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA).
“In OSA, the airway partially or completely closes,” explains Harneet Kaur Walia, MD, director of sleep medicine at Baptist Health’s Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute. “In CSA, there is no obstruction in the airways. In this type of sleep apnea, the respiratory drive is absent in the brain.”
According to the 2018 study, the prevalence of OSA is significantly higher in people with heart failure than in the general population. “OSA is strongly associated with high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythm, heart attack, stroke and heart failure,” warns Kaur Walia. “In patients with heart failure, excess fluid in the upper airways is an additional factor that can contribute to airway narrowing. Changes in chest pressure associated with sleep apnea put stress on the heart, and this effect is greater in humans with heart failure. failure.”
Symptoms of sleep apnea to watch out for include snoring, morning headaches, mood disorders, insomnia, and waking up at night due to choking or gasping for breath. Other warning signs to watch out for that may not be so easy to detect are increased blood pressure and increased sympathetic nervous system activity, such as accelerated heart rate, dilated pupils, narrowed blood vessels.
“People who are overweight, have a large neck circumference, smoke or have chronic lung diseases such as asthma are at increased risk of OSA,” states Jennifer Mieres, MD, professor of cardiology at the Zucker School of Medicine. “In addition, there is a higher prevalence of sleep apnea in men; they are two to three times more likely to have sleep apnea than women. The risk increases for obese women and those who are postmenopausal. Polycystic ovary syndrome, hormonal disorders and previous strokes can also increase the risk of sleep apnea.”
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If you suspect you have sleep apnea, see a doctor who can perform a test to determine if you have OSA. There are two types of tests: nocturnal polysomnography and home sleep tests. During a nighttime polysomnography test, doctors monitor your heart, lung, and brain activity, breathing patterns, body movements, and blood oxygen levels while you sleep. Home sleep tests are simplified tests that your doctor will give so that you can measure your heart rate, breathing patterns, and blood oxygen levels throughout the night.
The Mayo Clinic reports that there are therapeutic and surgical treatments for sleep apnea. Therapeutic treatment for OSA usually involves equipment that works to keep the airways open. The most common treatment is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) — a device that delivers air pressure through a mask to keep your airways open while you sleep. Other therapeutic treatments include oral devices that keep your throat open, supplemental oxygen, and adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV) airflow devices.
If therapeutic treatments fail to resolve your OSA, surgery may be necessary. Options include tissue removal from the roof of your mouth and throat, jaw repositioning, nerve stimulation, and forming a new airway (also called a tracheostomy). A tracheostomy is only needed in extreme cases where OSA is potentially life-threatening. Your doctor can recommend healthy lifestyle habits for milder OSA cases, such as eating a healthy diet, weight loss, avoiding alcohol, and not smoking.