Doctor AFib Explains: How Sleep Apnea Affects AFib


In this video, I discuss my common tips and questions about how sleep apnea affects patients with atrial fibrillation. How does sleep apnea affect AFib? Does the treatment for sleep apnea help with AFib?

The information is strictly educational in nature.

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Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, affects approximately 6 million Americans. It is an arrhythmia characterized by an irregular heart rhythm that can cause a stroke and other complications related to the heart.

Although atrial fibrillation can have a variety of causes, the research reveals a strong link between AFib and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea affects about 18 million US citizens and 100 million people worldwide. Eighty-five percent of the cases are not diagnosed.

Sleep apnea is a sleep-related illness that causes people to stop breathing for long periods when they sleep. Sleep apnea is usually diagnosed by monitoring a patient during a sleep study. These pauses in breathing can sometimes last up to 30 seconds and can potentially occur several times per night, with frequencies ranging from 15 to even 50 times per night, sometimes even more. Over time, untreated sleep apnea can lead to the emergence of risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes that predispose a person to AFib. It has also been shown that sleep apnea can trigger arrhythmias directly during sleep. The heart experiences mechanical tensions and chemical changes every time a person with sleep apnea awakens due to lack of oxygen, and that experience can contribute to the development of AFib.

Sleep apnea and AFib

Studies have shown an association between sleep apnea and AFib, since patients diagnosed with sleep apnea are 2-4 times more likely to have atrial fibrillation. If you have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, I recommend that you undergo a sleep apnea screening test, as it is crucial to diagnose especially in patients with atrial fibrillation.

Does the treatment of sleep apnea help AFib?

Treating sleep apnea helps control AF. Studies have shown that treating sleep apnea through a CPAP oxygen mask can help control a patient's breathing and significantly improve their afib by 42%, thus reducing symptoms. In addition, the treatment of AFib with a CPAP leads to greater success with procedures such as cardioversion, ablation.

The treatment of sleep apnea usually involves the use of a CPAP oxygen mask during the night to help maintain the person's breathing throughout the night. Many patients have described to me that it can be uncomfortable or even have a claustrophobic feeling when using these maks. Some patients get used to the mask, but others do not. Fortunately, there is a wide variety of sizes, as well as full masks and nasal masks only. As always, talk with your doctor about which option may be right for you. In addition, weight loss can also help treat sleep apnea, since there is a strong link between obesity and sleep apnea.

If you have sleep apnea, follow your CPAP schedule if possible. If you have not been tested for sleep apnea, talk to your doctor about a sleep study. Appropriate treatment of sleep apnea may help treat a patient's AFib, but also a wide variety of other medical conditions, including high blood pressure.

Video credits to Doctor AFib YouTube channel





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    Doctor AFib Explains: How Sleep Apnea Affects AFib

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