As an interventional cardiologist, Dr. Brian Taschner looks for ways to prevent heart attacks.
“We always work on primary prevention, patients that have not had a cardiac event or do not have any established cardiovascular disease and we’re trying to prevent those from happening,” says Dr. Brian Taschner, cardiologist with Lee Memorial Health System.
They do it by monitoring the warning signs.
“Things like high blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, we evaluate their family history, their smoking history, so a lot of these traditional risk factors,” says Dr. Taschner.
Another factor is increasingly becoming recognized as a risk.
“Sleep apnea, which is oftentimes related to obesity. That’s when people stop breathing periodically at night,” says Dr. Taschner.
“Obstructive sleep apnea is a common disorder. Some studies have shown that in males 30 to 60 years of age, up to 25 percent of that population may have obstructive sleep apnea,” says Dr. Jose Colon, sleep specialist with Lee Memorial Health System.
The older you are, the more likely you are to have apnea and as your age goes up, so does the severity. Researchers are now finding that untreated apnea is associated with an increase in cardiovascular deaths.
“When you’re having an apnea event, you can have an increase in your heart tone, in the sympathetic tone and that can cause stress on the heart as well as also affect high blood pressure spikes during the evening,” says Dr. Colon.
There is an upside: the study followed almost a thousand patients over the age 65 with severe apnea. It found using ‘continuous positive air pressure’ or CPAP treatment for at least 4 hours a day, leveled the mortality rate to match people who didn’t have apnea. All this reinforces the importance of a good night’s rest.“Sleep apnea can actually help in reducing blood pressure by about 10,” says Dr. Colon.