Sadly, over 3.1 million Americans who suffer from heart disease are unaware that they also suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. Dr. Madan Kandula went on The Morning Blend to answer some questions from Facebook about the topic.
It is our continuing series, Sleep Well, Breathe Well with ADVENT. So heart disease is the number one cause of death in the US, but a very common sleep problem has a big role in that. In fact, more than 3 million Americans with heart disease also have obstructive sleep apnea. Last Friday, we asked our Facebook friends what they wanted to know about sleep apnea, as well as heart disease. And today ADVENT CEO, Dr. Madan Kandula is here to answer those questions for us. Good morning to you, doctor. I wanted to start with this quote because you said this. "Make no mistake about it, sleep apnea is the grim reaper. He just lets his friends put their names on the death certificate." That's a heavy statement.
Yeah, it's a real statement. It's something that we see every day and unfortunately, most people don't understand the connections and it's because of that fact. So, as far as heart disease goes, that is the number one reason why somebody will pass away in early age in this country. The number one. Now as you just mentioned, many of those folks, most of those folks, actually, may very well have sleep apnea, but that never gets put as a cause of death. Never, ever. And that's a sad statement. And so for us, as far as trying to create awareness, it's trying to create awareness in the here and now for something that you can do in the here and now to prevent something that nobody wants anything to do with whether it's you or whether it's a loved one. And so again, I think there's a very large disconnect between the impact of sleep apnea, the annoyance of snoring and then something real and significant that people don't want anything to do with, which is heart disease.
Totally agree with you. Quite honestly, and it was somewhat recent history, the first time I really ever heard about the connection, Doctor, was when Reggie White died at a young age and they mentioned that he had sleep apnea or that they thought he did. And that was honestly the first time I heard that concrete connection. So what is the deal with it? What does sleep apnea have to do with heart disease?
Yeah, I mean, if you think about it and so what's happening with sleep apnea is when somebody is sleeping at night, their throat is shutting down, which gets their body revved up. And at the very time that your body is supposed to be resting and recovering instead of your body's fighting for its life. And what ends up happening is your heart rate revs up, your blood pressure goes up and it's a stress or massive stressor at again, the very time your body's supposed to rest and relax. And so what ends up happening for folks who have sleep apnea is night after night, day after day, week after week, month after month, this ticking time bomb is building and the body's fight or flight mechanism is always on the go. So a very, very common secondary issue for folks who have sleep apnea is high blood pressure. And many other heart issues can correspond with that as well.
Such a strain we're putting on our bodies when we're supposed to have restorative sleep. So here's a question, another one on Facebook from our friends and they want to know, "I'm afraid my husband is gasping for air at night. Could he eventually stop breathing and go into cardiac arrest?"
As somber as that sounds, unfortunately, reality is yes. Now though it isn't from the sleep apnea. This is where it gets tricky. So if that were to happen to somebody and then they were to do an autopsy on the back, and this is a horrible scenario to kind of talk through, they would look and they would say, "Oh, this person passed away from an MI, a heart attack, their heart stopped beating." They wouldn't necessarily connect it back to the sleep apnea. Back to what I've said in the past, and what you guys put up there, it wouldn't get connected back, but it can happen. But it doesn't necessarily have to happen during the night. So, I'd say if somebody passes away from a heart attack that's related to sleep apnea, it can happen day or night. I think on the corollary, a lot of folks are scared if they're next to somebody or around somebody who has sleep apnea and they see them suffering to breathe, it's frightening. And it wants them to cause some action for that person to get help. And so that's a real fear and real concern and it warrants getting something done about it. No question about it.
One of the other questions was, "what heart problems can sleep apnea cause?"
Heart attacks, strokes. So those are the things that people don't want. High blood pressure, arrhythmias, really, almost anything that has to do with the function of the heart and the blood vessels. If those things are getting taxed and stressed on an ongoing basis, all of those things can come into play. So if you flip it around and if you just walked into a cardiologist's office and you looked at folks who are coming in, who may have had chest pain or heart attack or high blood pressure, 50 to 80% of those folks have sleep apnea. So when you flip it around and you say, well, you know, sleep apnea can cause these issues. And then you say, well, let's just look at folks who have heart issues and let's see how many of those folks have sleep apnea. The numbers are extraordinarily high. Really, really high.
Wow, shocking. I think it's interesting that so many of our questions for you, Doctor, on Facebook are my husband, blah, blah, blah. It's all these wives who are worried about their husbands and they are the most likely to push for a doctor visit. Okay. We were running out of time, but I'm going to ask you this. I'm hoping you're giving us some good news. One of the questions was, "can heart problems from sleep apnea be reversed?" And as part of that, "what should my husband do about sleep apnea?"
The short answer to the first question is yes, they can. Obviously, the longer it's been going on, the quicker we ought to get on top of it and get things resolved so that your body's able to recover from the damage that that has been done. But it can happen, certainly. So meaning you can recover, and the best thing to do is to really seek help from a place that can really offer the solutions that are there. I think, as you mentioned, guys are the ones who- it has happened to the girls and guys, it's not like it's just about guys. But I would say guys are the most resistant to seeking out help because I think unfortunately they know something to be true that is true, which is the typical model in the healthcare system in this country to treat sleep apnea is broken. And so a guy doesn't want to go into a broken system. A guy usually doesn't want to get a band-aid slapped on that's not going to work. And so most guys that I know look for root cause solutions and and that's important. And that's what I look for.
It's such a great segment today, Doctor, there's so much important information here. I appreciate your time. Thanks for answering all those viewer questions.
Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Absolutely. And you can go to ADVENTknows.com to schedule online. It just takes 60 seconds. Most insurances are accepted and no referral is required. ADVENT has locations in Wauwatosa. Mequon, Oconomowoc, Oak Creek and Pleasant Prairie. There's a phone number too, for more information.