Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S. Because of this statistic, we’re acutely aware of the warning signs for cardiovascular disease like hypertension, high cholesterol, and arrhythmias. One potential explanation for the chest pain that usually accompanies these conditions is poor sleep.

Warning Signs of Heart Disease

Many Americans are aware of the signs of heart disease. Most of us have a close relative with a heart condition or were taught about the dangers of heart attacks in school or have seen commercials on TV advertising a new medication to treat heart disease. These warning signs can include:

  • Chest pain
  • Chest tightness
  • Chest discomfort
  • Shortness of breath

How Common Is the Link Between Sleep and Chest Pain?

Most estimates suggest that about 22 million Americans currently struggle with sleep apnea. Of those 22 million, most sufferers are overweight men over the age of 40. This same demographic is also notorious for struggling with heart disease, namely high blood pressure. According to the Sleep Foundation, around 50 percent of people diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) also have high blood pressure.

How Does Poor Sleep Affect the Heart?

What is more indicative of poor sleep than not regularly breathing throughout the night? Sleep apnea, or the sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts, is synonymous with sleep deprivation. OSA strains the heart and causes an over-activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which may lead to high blood pressure.

The role of our sympathetic nervous system is to control our “fight or flight” response. When activated, the sympathetic nervous system triggers an increase in heart rate, higher blood pressure, dilated pupils, and increased metabolism. Excessive activation of the sympathetic nervous system, like that found in sleep apnea patients, can lead to chronically elevated blood pressure.

Sleep Apnea Treatment in Kansas City, MO

Patients experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath, or any of the other tell-tale signs of a heart condition may be affected by undiagnosed sleep apnea. If you actually experience these symptoms, do not delay. Seek medical help immediately. To learn if you may be at risk for or suffering from sleep apnea and if that is affecting your heart health, schedule a consultation with dental sleep medicine diplomate, Dr. Raman.

Our office is located at 8612 N. Oak Trafficway Kansas City, Missouri, schedule your appointment by calling (816) 436-4422.