Patients that live with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) face increased risk of development of a variety of life threatening ailments. Many of these conditions stem from development of hypertension, which is prevalent among those with OSA. However, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy has proven itself as an effective means of controlling the symptoms of OSA, which in turn helps control hypertension.
In fact, a recent study published in the May 23/30 issue of JAMA showed the link between OSA, hypertension and the positive effect to be gained from use of the CPAP mask and machine in consistent CPAP therapy. The study followed 1,889 people without hypertension who had a sleep test. Over a median follow-up of 12 years, they found that OSA was associated with an increased risk of developing hypertension and that treatment with CPAP was associated with a lower risk of hypertension.
OSA is characterized by a relaxing of the muscles in the throat that leads to narrowing of the airway. When this narrowing is more severe, it can collapse the airway completely. This apnea, which means “without breath,” can happen hundreds of times a night and lasts for up to a minute each time. This leads to low blood oxygenation and the sleeper being jarred awake during each event.
The frequent apneic/hypopneic episodes keep blood pressure at daytime levels when it should fall during regular sleep. The more severe the sleep apnea the higher the blood pressure levels and likelihood of hypertension. These factors collude to make it more difficult to control blood pressure levels with medications.
OSA sufferers are often candidates for the sleep apnea machine, or more commonly referred to as the CPAP Machine. A CPAP machine works by maintaining a certain amount of air pressure delivered to a CPAP mask that the user wears while sleeping. The air pressure keeps the wearer’s airway open, allowing easier breathing and more restful, consistent sleep.
Consequently, CPAP therapy has proven to be an effective way to battle hypertension. There are many studies that can be found online that show the use of a CPAP mask and machine will control the apneic events and provide more restful sleep. This leads to more normal nighttime blood pressure levels, which can help control hypertension.
With a clear majority of OSA patients living with obesity, hypertension can also be present. Since OSA can lead to increases in weight and obesity can lead to OSA, it stands to reason that many people with one or the other condition are at an increased risk for development of hypertension. This is why diet and exercise should also play a major role in controlling hypertension along with the CPAP mask and machine therapy.
DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), has become a leading dietary lifestyle change that has proven very effective in controlling hypertension. The DASH diet emphasizes portion size, eating a variety of foods and getting the right amount of nutrients. The DASH diet centers around a reduction in sodium and an increase in a variety of foods rich in nutrients that help lower blood pressure, such as potassium, calcium and magnesium.
While vegetables, fruit and low-fat dairy foods are emphasized, a moderate intake of whole grains, fish, poultry and nuts are also included. Since saturated fat and Trans fat are primary causes of increased blood cholesterol, DASH limits them to less than six percent of total daily calories.
There are a great many foods that fit the DASH model such as garlic, which lowers cholesterol and acts as a blood thinner. When it is chopped, it produces Allicin, a compound that fights diseases associated with hypertension and OSA. Eating one to two bananas high in potassium a day can help restore blood sugar levels.
Like bananas, potatoes are a great source of potassium. Broccoli, carrots and leafy greens like kale and spinach can help significantly reduce hypertension because they are rich in nutrients like vitamin C and beta-carotene which boost immunity and fight off diseases.
There is no cure for hypertension so it is a matter of controlling it in order to lower risks of associated diseases and health risks. By adhering to the recommended minimum of four or more hours use of the CPAP mask and machine each night and working with your physician to craft a lifelong diet and exercise regimen, OSA patients can have more restful sleep, healthier days and better long-term health outcomes.
Bio: Melissa Howe is a freelance writer who has specialized in health and health technology for the past two decades ranging from Electronic Medical Records to the CPAP mask and machine.