How sleep apnea and irregular heartbeat are connected

How sleep apnea and irregular heartbeat are connected

If a patient experiences irregular heartbeat like atrial fibrillation, the doctor may recommend a test for obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA.

This is because the two conditions are highly connected to each other.

Atrial fibrillation, or Afib, affects about 6 million Americans.

The condition is an arrhythmia characterized by a quivering or irregular heartbeat that can lead to stroke and other heart-related complications.

Although atrial fibrillation can have a range of causes, including age, heart disease and hypertension among them, research reveals a strong link between Afib and OSA.

People with OSA experience a blockage in the airway, or restricted breathing, for 10 seconds or longer during sleep.

The condition can range from mild to severe, based in part on the number of times each hour that a patient stops breathing.

Experts from Michigan Medicine suggest that patients diagnosed with Afib should be assessed for the risk factors for OSA.

The risk factors include excess weight, narrowed airway, chronic nasal congestion, high blood pressure, smoking and alcohol use.

In addition, some uncontrollable risk factors include age (older than 40), gender (more common in men) and family history of OSA.

If OSA is diagnosed, the experts recommend continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment.

This treatment involves wearing a mask during sleep. The mask conducts pressurized air through the nose, or through the nose and mouth, to the throat.

The added pressure in the throat then keeps it from collapsing during sleep to enable normal breathing.

On the other hand, the treatment for Afib is often catheter ablation.

This is a minimally invasive technique in which a catheter is threaded through the blood vessels and into the left atrium of the heart, where radiofrequency or cryo energy is applied to the heart muscle to cauterize the “short circuits” in the heart’s electrical system that are generating the Afib.

That method is most effective when combined with CPAP adherence.

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