digital 3d illustration of a human heart and blood vesselsSleep apnea is a potentially deadly condition largely because it increases the risk of cardiovascular conditions. Heart disease, stroke, and heart failure are all more common in people with sleep apnea. 

Among the stages in developing sleep apnea-related heart complications is a change in the shape and size of the heart. Left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) is linked to sleep apnea, and it contributes to a person’s increased risk of heart problems. 

People diagnosed with left ventricular hypertrophy should consider whether they might have sleep apnea. The Detroit sleep dentists at the Michigan Head & Neck Institute can help you get a home sleep study to find out. If you have sleep apnea, they can help you find treatment. 

Left Ventricular Hypertrophy

Your heart has four chambers. It’s divided in half: a left half and a right half. Each half has an atrium (the top chamber), which draws blood in from the body, and a ventricle (the bottom chamber), which pumps blood out of the heart. 

Blood enters the heart through the right atrium after traveling through the body. The right ventricle pumps blood to the lungs, where it gives up carbon dioxide and picks up oxygen. Then the blood reenters the heart through the left atrium, and then the left ventricle pumps the blood back through the body. 

Left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) is when the left ventricle is enlarged, usually because of overwork. Two of the most common causes of LVH are aortic stenosis and high blood pressure (hypertension). 

Aortic stenosis is when the aortic valve (leading from the left ventricle to the body’s arteries) gets clogged with calcium deposits, making it harder for the heart to pump blood through it. The left ventricle can also get strained as it attempts to maintain high blood pressure. We’ll talk more about the connection between high blood pressure and sleep apnea soon. 

Like sleep apnea, many people have LVH but don’t know it. Only about 2% of the healthy population has LVH, but as much as 77% of people with untreated hypertension have LVH, with an overall prevalence of up to 20%. LVH doesn’t always have perceptible symptoms, but as it worsens, people might experience:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Chest pain

When untreated, LVH can develop into serious heart complications. People are more likely to develop heart failure if they have LVH. In addition, they might experience a heart attack or heart attack symptoms because their ventricle has elevated oxygen demands that might not be met. People are at an increased risk of stroke with LVH, especially if they also develop atrial fibrillation.

With these risks, people in Detroit with LVH or who suspect LVH should seek treatment. The good news is that, like sleep apnea, LVH is reversible with treatment. 

High Blood Pressure, LVH, and Sleep Apnea

In sleep apnea, your breathing stops for extended periods during sleep. It stops long enough that your brain senses an oxygen shortage and takes steps to get more oxygen. In addition to trying to resume breathing, your brain tells your heart to pump harder and faster to supply more oxygen. 

As this happens repeatedly, your heart essentially gets conditioned to pump harder, leading to higher constant blood pressure. The reality is a little more complicated, involving your sympathetic nervous system, hormones, and more, but that’s essentially what happens. What’s worse is that sleep apnea tends to make your high blood pressure resistant to medications. While about 10-20% of the general population has sleep apnea, perhaps 70-85% of people with drug-resistant hypertension have sleep apnea. More than 90% of people with refractory hypertension (hypertension that isn’t controlled despite very high doses of medication) have sleep apnea. 

A new study ties sleep apnea and drug-resistant hypertension to LVH. Using cardiac magnetic resonance to measure the size and shape of patients’ hearts. The findings showed that people with sleep apnea had higher blood pressure than healthy controls. This is despite the fact that most of those with hypertension were taking at least one medication–and up to at least three–to control blood pressure. In addition, people with sleep apnea had enlarged left ventricles

People in Detroit who are having trouble controlling blood pressure should talk to their doctors about sleep apnea or order a home sleep test. It’s critical that these people seek a sleep apnea treatment that they will use. If you can’t tolerate CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), talk to a Detroit sleep dentist about alternative treatments. 

Sleep Apnea Treatment in Detroit

If you have conditions like LVH or hypertension but don’t know if you have sleep apnea, you should seek out a sleep test. Sleep apnea can keep you from getting successful treatments for your other conditions. 

Fortunately, the Michigan Head and Neck Institute can help people in Detroit get a comfortable and easy home sleep test affordably. We can also help people with sleep apnea find an alternative to CPAP if it’s not working for them or they don’t want to try it. 

Please call (586) 573-0438 or use our online form to request an appointment at the Michigan Head & Neck Institute, serving the Detroit area from our location in Warren, MI.