A new study revealed results that many researchers were suspecting. CPAP, or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, which is used to treat moderate to severe sleep apnea, can also help patients who suffer from high blood pressure and stiff arteries.
Sleep apnea is already known to be damaging to the health of your whole body, but especially your heart and circulatory system. Using a CPAP machine can help prevent these issues caused by sleep apnea. But what if you already have severe circulatory issues?
The study showed that after just 3 months of using a CPAP machine every night while sleeping, patients with high blood pressure saw a dramatic drop back down to near normal levels in both their systolic and diastolic blood pressures.
It was also apparent that the patients would need to use a CPAP device continuously, because, after a week of not using it, their blood pressure went back up to harmful levels. The study involved 47 adults, with the average age of 41 who had been previously diagnosed with sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea is when the throat muscles aren't strong enough to stay open during sleep, and collapse, causing the patient to stop breathing momentarily. This happens off and on throughout the night, causing a significant drop in oxygen flow. Less oxygen to the heart means the heart has to work harder, causing damage to the heart and circulatory system, as well as damage to the brain and other organs.
Dr. Claudia Korcarz, a senior scientist at the University of Wisconsin Atherosclerosis Imaging Research Program in Madison, said sleep apnea's effect on blood pressure is "reversible if treated early."
Many of the people who participated in the study didn't want to use the CPAP machines because they were hard to get used to. CPAP masks can feel too obstructive and uncomfortable, especially at first. Some were only able to tolerate it for 4 hours every night, with an average rest time of 6 hours per night during the study.