Sleep Apnea Increases Risk for Stroke
· Sleep apnea may increase stroke risk because:
Ø It has been shown to cause high blood pressure, which is the most common risk factor for stroke.
Ø When a person stops breathing, the lack of oxygen kicks in the body’s “fight or flight” response. Part of that reaction is to make the blood more clottable, and blood clots in the brain can cause a stroke.
Ø It causes calcified plaques in the carotid artery leading to the brain. These plaques block blood flow, significantly increasing patients’ risk for stroke
· A recent clinical study found that those with moderate to severe sleep apnea at the beginning of the study were 3 to 4 times more likely to have a stroke than a comparable group of patients without sleep apnea during the next four years.
· Assessment and treatment of sleep apnea is not typically a part of standard therapy for stroke patients. Many stroke patients have snoring and daytime fatigue as symptoms of apnea. Awareness of sleep apnea as a factor that might contribute to functional disability in stroke patients may be very low among health care professionals. The patient therefore, has to take a very proactive role.