A recent study categorized people with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) based on their differing symptoms. It found that there was a strong link between excessive daytime sleepiness and cardiovascular disease. For those with OSA, it increases their hypertension risk.

About 30% of people with high blood pressure also have OSA, according to the American Thoracic Society. And for those with OSA, there is a 50% chance of developing hypertension. However, researchers have still been uncertain why people with OSA are likelier to develop heart disease.

Connecting sleep apnea and cardiovascular health

When breathing pauses occur in people with OSA, the oxygen level in the blood gets low. Frequent bouts of low oxygen levels during sleep may damage the blood vessels that supply the heart.

During these pauses, the heart beats faster and the BP goes up. Severe OSA can even cause the heart to become enlarged. When this occurs, the heart receives less oxygen and works less efficiently.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, the analysis showed that participants with OSA who experienced excessive sleepiness had higher rates of cardiovascular disease at enrollment when compared with people without OSA.

They were also twice as likely to experience cardiovascular issues during the follow-up period. However, these results do not necessarily prove that excessive sleepiness is a causal factor for cardiovascular disease. They do believe that this specific symptom of OSA could be a surrogate marker of underlying cardiovascular risk pathways, though.

Despite the limitations of the study, it is suggested that continuous positive airway pressure or oral appliance therapy should focus on people who have excessive sleepiness would benefit the most.