Sleep apnea belongs to that category of illnesses that is not only distressful in the short run but also has extremely serious long term consequences, many of which could be life-threatening.
The life-threatening aspect of this sleep disorder has a lot to do with one of its typical characteristics: repeated and involuntary stoppage of breathing during sleep. While this happens because of the upper airway being blocked or narrowed, the resultant impact of cessation of breathing on the brain and the heart, make the ailment potentially dangerous.
Because a majority of the symptoms of sleep apnea show up during sleep, the ailment mostly remains undiagnosed. However, longer the period during which no diagnosis is done, the greater the risk of heart diseases, rise in blood pressure, heart attacks, impotence, irregular heart rhythm and stroke.
Sleep apnea and heart disease: how does the link get established?
Though it is still not known whether sleep apnea actually causes heart disease, but the existence of their association is confirmed for sure. It has been observed that people with pre-existing heart-related problems including high levels of blood pressure, stroke and heart failure are more prone to be victims of sleep apnea as well.