House Call: Obstructive sleep apnea and heart disease

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Recently, more and more research has been conducted on the subject of sleep medicine, as medical professionals are finding sleep disorders and deprivation to be linked to serious health conditions such as heart disease.

Sleep apnea, in particular, has been shown to increase risk of cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality. Sleep apnea is a sleep breathing disorder that restricts breathing patterns during sleep, disrupting the normal five stages of sleep, especially the important deep, REM sleep stage.

Individuals with untreated sleep apnea are put at greater risk of high blood pressure, arrhythmia, constricted blood vessels, premature ventricular contractions and increased inflammation. Individuals with sleep apnea who also have existing cardiovascular disease and/or risk factors are at even greater risk of these issues.

They are also at greater risk of experiencing a heart attack, stroke and/or sudden cardiac death in the middle of the night. It is extremely important to discuss sleep apnea with your primary care physician, cardiologist or other healthcare professional if you suspect the disorder within yourself or a friend or family member.

Major signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring and trouble sleeping in certain positions.  Sleep apnea is commonly seen in individuals who are overweight or obese and/or have a thick neck.

Sleep apnea is a completely treatable disorder, commonly treated with the use of a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine.

By detecting and treating sleep apnea early, a myriad of cardiovascular diseases and conditions can be prevented or decreased. Cone Health Network has an exceptional team of cardiologists, sleep medicine specialists and related healthcare professionals dedicated to preventing and treating cardiovascular disease and related diseases and risk factors.

Physician Background:

Dr. Thomas Kelly is a cardiologist and member of the Cone Health Medical Staff. Dr. Kelly is board-certified in Internal Medicine, Cardiology and Sleep Medicine. He is a 1981 graduate of New York University School of Medicine. He completed his residency in Internal Medicine at Duke University Medical Center and his fellowship in Cardiology at University of Virginia Medical Center.