Does sleep apnea cause strokes?

The link between sleep apnea and stroke is staggering, even in those suffering from mild sleep apnea. Depending on the severity of sleep apnea (mild, mild to moderate or severe), someone suffering from the condition can stop breathing dozens or even hundreds of times each night.

The severity of sleep apnea is determined during a sleep study using a scale called the apnea–hypopnea index (AHI), which measures the number of decreases in your airflow while you sleep. These decreases in airflow are caused when the airway collapses and temporarily cuts off breathing, reducing oxygen in the bloodstream during sleep.

The consequences of leaving any form of sleep apnea untreated pose serious threats to your health, including stroke. Don’t let the word “mild” make you feel like you can ignore this condition. Stroke is a real risk for everyone suffering from sleep apnea, especially men. The risk of stroke can double in men with mild sleep apnea and triple in men with moderate sleep apnea.

Strokes have a wide range of effects that impact a person’s quality of life. Since the brain is complex, the effects of a stroke can be different, depending on the specific area of the brain affected. Stroke complications include impaired vision, speech problems, memory loss, behavioral changes and paralysis on the left or right side of the body. Also, those who have sleep apnea and suffer a stroke may recover more slowly and less successfully during the early stages of recovery.

Stroke is just one of the risks tied to sleep apnea. Other serious conditions like diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure are also associated with sleep apnea.

This blog post contains general information about medical conditions and potential treatments. It is not medical advice. If you have any medical questions, please consult your doctor.

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