Sleep Apnea Associated With Sudden Death Due To Heart Arrhythmias Like Ventricular Fibrillation or Flutter

Sleep Apnea Associated With Sudden Death Due To Heart Arrhythmias Like Ventricular Fibrillation or Flutter

Heart – Image Source: Heikenwaelder Hugo WIK

(Best Syndication News) New research links sleep apnea to heart arrhythmias that can cause sudden death from cardiac arrest. The sleep disorder can lead to ventricular arrhythmias which are more dangerous than atrial arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation and flutter. The ventricles are the lower chambers and they are associated with sudden death.

Sleep apnea is a common problem that can be diagnosed with a sleep study. Most people are not aware they have the problem but their partners may be. Symptoms include daytime sleepiness and nighttime snoring. The sleeper may be unaware that he (or sometimes she) has stopped breathing momentarily throughout the night.
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According to a broadcast from Pittsburgh’s ABC affiliate, a doctor treating the disorder has never seen anyone with the symptoms not have sleep apnea. Mike Clark said sleep apnea has the “potential to kill you if you don’t get help”. If your partner or you snore, see your doctor.

In the study which appeared in the June Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), older men appear to be at a higher risk for arrhythmias. The type of breathing problem may be associated with different arrhythmias.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

There are two types of sleep apnea and two basic types of arrhythmias. The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This was associated with the more deadly form of arrhythmia affecting the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles).

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airways constrict due to the relaxation of sleep. This is what causes the snoring sound. OSA can be treated easily with a CPAP (Constant Positive Air Pressure) machine. You may want to monitor your nighttime oxygen level even after you get your CPAP to make sure it is above 90 percent.

Central Sleep Apnea

Both central and obstructive sleep apneas are short pauses in breathing when asleep (Apnea - Latin derived from the Greek for taking away breath). Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) occurs when the sleeper stops breathing the brain forgets to send the signal.

Although much less widespread than OSA, CSA is more common as we age. CSA is associated more strongly with arrhythmias in the atria or upper chambers. Severe CSA (and OSA) disorders are more strongly associated with heart rhythm problems. CSA can be treated with a BiPAP or APAP (Auto-titration CPAP) which keeps the breathing constant.

Atria Arrhythmias

Atria arrhythmias are not usually considered life threatening. There are numerous types of disorders affecting the atria including atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter. There is an increased risk of stroke and heart attack with these disorders.

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Ventricle Arrhythmias

Both atria and ventricular arrhythmias are caused by haywire electrical signals in the heart. The heart may beat irregularly or fast or slow. Ventricle flutter and ventricle fibrillation are life threatening. The ventricles pump the blood through the body and the lungs so they are critical to survival.

Collapse and sudden cardiac death will follow in minutes unless medical help is provided immediately during episodes of ventricular arrhythmias. An external defibrillator can shock the heart back to life. Implantable cardioverter-defibrillators can help the heart keep pace and prevent life threatening problems.

One hour before a ventricular event there may be symptoms including:

Chest pain
Dizziness
Nausea
Rapid heartbeat
Shortness of breath

Preventative Measures

The bottom line is that there are some preventive measures. The most obvious is lose weight and stop smoking. Eat healthier and exercise. If you suspect sleep apnea get a diagnosis and a prescription for a CPAP or APAP machine. Purchase a Home Defibrillator (AED).

Type of Sleep Disorder Increased Risk of Arrhythmia
Obstructive Sleep Apnea Atria
Central Sleep Apnea Venrticle

By Dan Wilson

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