Sleep apnea and heart disease in women

Heart disease in women has been long ignored by the medical community… it’s thought of as a man’s disease.

A woman can go into the emergency room and be told she’s fine when she’s actually having a heart attack, simply because her symptoms present differently than a man’s.

And while the number of deaths due to heart disease has been on the decline, the change is far less prominent for women as a whole and women of color in particular. In fact, heart disease is still the leading cause of death for women in the U.S., killing more than all forms of cancer combined.

Despite these truly scary statistics, a survey by the American Heart Association showed that 46 percent of women are unaware of their risk.

A new article in the journal Cardiovascular Innovations and Applications is revealing the possible connection between heart disease in women and a sleep disorder…

The authors reviewed important sex differences in the association of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and heart disease, finding data suggesting women may have different susceptibility to the effects of OSA, including a higher risk of heart issues.

They also found that while OSA is a common condition, it remains grossly under-diagnosed in women.

This is a dangerous trend considering that it’s been found that the prevalence of OSA can exceed 50 percent in patients with heart disease.

According to the authors, this disparity between men and women may be due to a number of factors, including the late presentation of OSA in women and difficulties in diagnosing both OSA and cardiovascular diseases in women.

So, if you’re a woman and suspect you may suffer from sleep apnea, it’s important to seek help in order to protect yourself from the risk of heart disease.

Here’s how to recognize your symptoms…

While a man with sleep apnea may snore like a buzz saw and wake up choking, women tend to experience daytime sleepiness as well as insomnia, morning headaches and moodiness.

If you have any of these symptoms, even if you don’t snore, it’s important to get evaluated by your doctor. If you have sleep apnea, you may also be experiencing elevated blood pressure — whether you know it or not.

According to the experts, blood pressure normally drops by 10-20 percent when you sleep. However, sleep apnea reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood, causing your blood vessels to constrict and raising your blood pressure.

And they say that although this high blood pressure can occur only at night at first, it can transition to daytime hours as well.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the CPAP machine. It works from some, but not everyone manages to learn how to sleep successfully with the mask on.

But there are a few other things you can try, especially if your sleep apnea is mild, including:

1. Losing weight (if you carry around extra)
2. Exercise
3. Avoiding alcohol, tranquilizers and sleeping pills
4. Sleeping on your side or stomach instead of your back
5. Using nasal spray or decongestants to keep you nose from getting stuffy

Even though it won’t impact your sleep apnea, you might want to consider supporting your arterial health if you experience higher blood pressure due to sleep apnea.