"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Treating severe snoring might help control blood pressure.

I come from a family of champion snorers. Mother, father, brother – all of us broadcast the night like a buzz saw. But by 2006, my snoring and snarking took an unhealthy turn. Instead of just driving everyone around to distraction, I began to stop respiration for brief periods of time. Dozens of times an evening, my upper airway slowed down like a worn-out garden hose, cutting off airflow and waking me up. Blood oxygen dropped and adrenaline rushed into my bloodstream, causing blood pressure to go up and down.

After a sleep study wherein I spent the night at a specialized clinic attached to numerous sleeping gadgets, my doctor offered a proof for my increasing fatigue and mental fog: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

Not surprisingly, I read with great interest. The study was published today I Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) which reported that treating OSA may help individuals with very difficult to regulate blood pressure. Many individuals with this so-called treatment-resistant hypertension take several medications but their blood pressure stays stubbornly high. Many individuals with treatment-resistant hypertension even have OSA.

Healthy BP with CPAP

Can they assist treat OSA? To discover, researchers in Spain gave nearly 200 men and girls a regular OSA treatment for 12 weeks. Treatment was continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which uses a face mask and bedside air pump to inflate the upper airways to forestall soft tissue collapse within the upper throat that obstructs airflow.

After 12 weeks of CPAP, study participants had barely lower average 24-hour blood pressure. They also had healthier nighttime blood pressure patterns.

The improvements, though modest, are still significant. Nighttime respiration interruptions, or “apneas,” starve the brain of oxygen and stress the cardiovascular system. Inadequate treatment of OSA comes with a better risk of heart attack and stroke. Another risk is the next-day drowsiness that makes people vulnerable to accidents.

What this implies for individuals with OSA.

“The wrong message is that CPAP is weak,” says Dr. Malhotra. “Blood pressure medications offer a big bang for daytime blood pressure reduction, but it's important to say that when you treat sleep apnea, there are many other benefits that aren't necessarily during the day. related to blood pressure.”

I’ll say! I used to be absolutely miserable before CPAP. But now I sleep like a lamb (well, possibly like a helium-inflated Macy's Day parade lamb). Every night I strap on what I affectionately call my “astronaut machine.” A small high-tech bedside air pump monitors my respiration and adjusts the flow of filtered, humidified air into my nose. A microchip within the machine tracks my respiration patterns and adjusts the flow throughout the night to compensate for changes in body position.

Overcoming CPAP Roadblocks

But not all my brother and sister CPAPers are so lucky. Some people can't get used to the mask and tear it off of their sleep or don't wear it in any respect. But most individuals can adapt to CPAP.

“It's not ideal to wear a mask over your head, but in some people it's great,” says Dr. Malhotra. “They wear it all night every night and can't sleep without it. Then they get the benefits of the transformation.”

How do you get to that time? An essential factor is mask comfort. “The key is to just find what you like,” says Dr. Malhotra. “It's like going to Baskin Robbins. There are 31 flavors, and you have to try different flavors before you find one you like.”

Fortunately, CPAP's Baskin Robbins is well-stocked with quite a lot of mask options today. These include nasal masks, full-face masks, and twin tubes that deliver air to every nostril.

Mask fitting is usually a trial and error process, and you might have to try different ones until you discover the proper match. “If you try pistachios at Besan Robins for the first time and don't like it, you may never go back,” says Dr. Malhotra, “but some people try pistachios for the first time. And like it.”

Me, I really like the vanilla — short, light nose only nose mask. My brain quickly learned to maintain my mouth shut and breathe through my nose. Later I discovered higher designed headgear and an accordion-like mask that held its seal higher despite occasional tossing and turning.

Dr. Malhotra urges those on CPAP to stop if the primary taste isn't nice. “Even if the first experience with CPAP is not good,” says Dr. Malhotra, “it's important to keep trying.” Untreated or inadequately treated, sleep apnea can have devastating effects on health and quality of life, but there is normally an answer.