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The Link Between Snoring, Sleep Apnea and High Blood Pressure

Man checking for high blood pressure

As we’ve talked about in previous articles, habitual snoring can be very harmful in terms of one’s overall health – and not just due to broken sleep. Snoring (and sleep apnoea in particular) is directly linked to high blood pressure, and numerous medical studies have identified snoring as a contributor to the development and worsening of blood pressure issues.  

Blood Pressure – Explained 

Most visits to a GP will include a blood pressure check, and this is intrinsic to any medical checkup, especially in adults. Blood Pressure is defined as the force the blood makes on the inner walls of the arteries, which are the strong, thick blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood from the lungs and heart to the rest of the body.  

Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg). This unit of measurement is based on the traditional medical examination method using a sphygmomanometer and a stethoscope. Most clinics and hospitals now use electronic/digital blood pressure devices to take blood pressure readings. 

The reading is comprised of: 

  • Systolic Pressure –representing the pressure in arteries when the heart beats and blood is squeezed into the vessels. 
  • Diastolic Pressure – representing the pressure in arteries when the heart rests and the arteries relax between heartbeats.  

The average blood pressure for most healthy adults is considered to be an average of 120mmHg systolic over 80mmhg diastolic. 

What is High Blood Pressure? 

Blood pressure naturally rises and drops throughout the day and is influenced by one’s age, general health, activity level, unique physiology and body mass, stress level, intake of caffeine, alcohol, and other substances, medicines, and various other factors. For a lot of people, however, blood pressure is consistently higher than what is considered to be normal and healthy.  

High blood pressure or hypertension occurs when blood pressure is consistently higher than 130-140/90 mmHg. Any blood pressure reading above 180/120 mmHg is critically high and requires urgent medical attention.   

Low blood pressure (consistently below 100/70 mm Hg) is also medically of concern, but this is less common and has different causes and implications than hypertension).   

Having an occasional high blood pressure reading is not usually too worrying, especially if you are otherwise healthy and are not impacted by heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, or obesity. Some people experience a rise in their blood pressure simply in response to being in a clinical setting (this is often referred to as White Coat Syndrome). Blood pressure also rises to an extent during and just after exercise, eating a large meal, consuming caffeine, smoking, in response to immediate stressors, and due to certain medications. 

If your doctor is concerned about your blood pressure, the most accurate measurement can be determined by using a 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitor. This is worn for 24 hours and takes measurements at 30-minute intervals.  

How is High Blood Pressure a Medical Issue? 

Hypertension is considered to be a “silent killer.” 

Though it usually causes no tangible symptoms, if it’s not identified and treated, high blood pressure can cause other serious and potentially life-threatening problems. Over time, high blood pressure makes the heart work much harder and can cause heart disease and heart attack, stroke (caused by blockage or bleeding in the brain’s blood vessels), irreversible blood vessel damage including arteriosclerosis and chronic venous insufficiency, kidney failure, and other serious medical conditions.  

Hypertension is prevalent globally, costing economies billions of dollars, including in New Zealand. According to a Ministry of Health New Zealand Health Survey, 22.5% of New Zealanders have hypertension; more than 25% of these are untreated. It often runs in families and statistically is more prevalent in Māori and Pacific Islander populations. People of Asian descent tend to have the lowest rate of hypertension. 

The Impact of Snoring on Hypertension 

People who snore are much more likely to develop high blood pressure. Habitual snoring, and especially sleep apnoea, is associated with uncontrolled high blood pressure – even when anti-hypertensive medicines are used. 

How does snoring contribute to this health condition? Blood carries oxygen and nutrients from the lungs to the organs and other tissues throughout the body. Adequate oxygenation of the blood is contingent on optimal breathing and lung function.  

Snoring indicates that breathing when one sleeps is compromised. As a result of this, less oxygen reaches the lungs and is therefore not available for transport through the blood. The body strives to adapt, making the heart beat harder and faster. This can over-stress the heart muscle, ageing it more quickly, causing electrical issues and arrhythmias (abnormal beats), and even risking heart failure. It also affects the blood vessels, potentially causing them to harden, develop clots or other blockages, leak, or burst. The eventual outcome can be a heart attack, stroke, other medical issues, or death.   

How to Prevent and Treat High Blood Pressure 

  • Have a complete medical checkup with your GP every year, especially as you get older and/or if you have any chronic health conditions. This is also important for women who use hormonal contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy for menopause. This must include blood pressure checks.

  • A lot of pharmacies will provide an on-the-spot blood pressure check if you request it.
  • Lifestyle changes can make an enormous difference if you have high blood pressure. These include everything from stress management to losing weight, adopting a healthier diet, reducing salt and saturated fat intake, exercising more, moderating (or avoiding) alcohol consumption, treating existing health issues, getting plenty of sleep, and increasing water intake.  
  • Avoid substances that increase blood pressure. These include caffeine, tobacco, vapes, and illicit drugs.  
  • With your GP’s advice and guidance, manage blood cholesterol, triglyceride, and blood sugar levels, and get tested to check you do not have insulin resistance.  
  • Your doctor may prescribe specific medication to help control your blood pressure.  
  • Treating snoring and sleep apnoea can also help treat high blood pressure.  

Stop Snoring to Reduce Blood Pressure 

Reducing snoring is imperative for optimising general health. It can also, when combined with other healthy lifestyle choices, help to prevent high blood pressure from developing or getting worse. 

ApneaRx offers a very simple, effective, cost-efficient, and unobtrusive way to help you treat snoring and symptoms associated with mild to moderate sleep apnoea. Worn in your mouth while you sleep, it is a safe, comfortable, washable, and reusable world-class mandibular advancement device. It’s unique adjustability feature gently moves the lower jaw forward to help open the airways, enhance breathing and oxygenation in the body, and prevent snoring. It also helps to improve sleep quality.  

ApneaRx is ideal for adults of all ages.  

See more about  ApneaRx and get yours now.