In many cases, people who have one health concern may develop another. The term dual diagnosis was created as physicians looked for the root cause of the problem as well as any contributing factors that go with it. This dual diagnosis is common when it comes to sleep apnea and high blood pressure.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a common health ailment. It occurs when the pressure inside of the blood vessels is more than what it normally should be. Normal blood pressure will go up and down depending on the activity or even anxiety levels throughout the day.

When the pressure stays at the higher levels, that is when it can become a problem. Prolonged high blood pressure can cause other very serious heart and vascular problems such as an increased risk for heart attacks and strokes.

Sleep apnea occurs when the person sleeping stops and starts breathing repeatedly throughout the sleep session. Snoring is one symptom of this disorder but is not necessarily the whole picture. With sleep apnea, snoring is combined with other symptoms such as gasping for air and insomnia. Hard-to-control high blood pressure is another symptom of sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea can cause secondary hypertension, where the person with sleep apnea will have higher blood pressure readings while sleeping. Eventually, the blood pressure will stay higher even during waking hours.

Studies are still on-going to find out exactly why this cross between sleep apnea and high blood occurs in some people. It is thought that lower oxygen levels create a kind of panic mode in the brain. When this panic mode occurs the brain sends out signals to the central nervous system so that it will tighten the blood vessels so more oxygen can flow through.

Many physicians are now sending patients diagnosed with hypertension to sleep labs to see if there is a link between the two problems. In one study it was discovered that people who were treated with a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device had lower blood pressure readings after 12 weeks of treatment.

While studies are still being conducted on the correlation between sleep apnea and high blood pressure the outlook for diagnosis and treatment look promising.

There’s a lot that goes into taking care of our bodies. Check out our other article about how sleep deprivation can cause high blood pressure.