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Women, Sleep Apnea, and Heart Health: More Connections

Chronic obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a serious disorder, with serious health consequences with the risk for hypertension, cardiac disease, stroke and even death. Not only does sleep apnea put those with OSA at higher risk for those serious health issues, but it also disrupts healthy glucose function and decreases insulin sensitivity—increasing risk for Type 2 diabetes.

New evidence suggests that women may be particularly vulnerable to the complications that sleep apnea can impose upon the patient. Results from multiple studies suggest that women may be at particular risk for cardiovascular dysfunction as a result of sleep apnea.

“The autonomic nervous system plays a role in regulating a range of important functions throughout the body, and effects of weakened autonomic responses can extend beyond the cardiovascular system, affecting the normal functioning of the brain and other organ systems,” states Dr. Michael J. Breus, Clinical Psychologist and Board Certified Sleep Specialist.

Heart disease, like OSA, is often regarded as a men’s health issue. But this is not true. Heart disease is the most common cause of death for women in the U.S. One in four women will die from cardiovascular disease. And one of the primary reasons that sleep apnea goes undiagnosed is that OSA symptoms for women can be different from those in men. Typical symptoms of snoring, apneas, and daytime sleepiness that are associated with the disorder can be seen. However, women have other symptoms that can be associated with sleep apnea like morning headaches, depression, fatigue, and difficulty falling and staying asleep.

It is important to not overlook any of these symptoms in both men and women. If left untreated, the consequences are serious to your health and your family.


photo credit: mark sebastian via photopin cc