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There is a link between Obstructive Sleep Apnea (O.S.A) and high levels of cholesterol.
Studies have shown that the more severe the OSA, the lower are the levels of High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) and higher the Triglyceride levels…In short, HDL is considered a good cholesterol whereas the Triglycerides are not.
Please note: Triglycerides are not the same as Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL), however Triglycerides are a body fat that acts similar to LDL.
As has been discussed in past blogs, the use of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) lowers OSA. In addition, it has been shown that CPAP over a six month period lowers overall cholesterol and increases HDL levels (the good cholesterol).
Theories of the link between OSA and high cholesterol
The Link between OSA and high cholesterol is not clearly understood, but certain theories have been put forward:
1) During periods of ‘obstructed’ breathing, there is an increase in the levels of adrenaline due to an increase in Sympathetic Nervous System activity (see blog “The Sympathetic Nervous System,” posted on February 3rd 2014). The increase in adrenalin is considered to be quite significant and occurs chronically – this increase in adrenalin results in lower HDL and higher triglyceride levels.
2) Obesity is one of the main causes of OSA (we have seen this in past blogs). And obesity is the result of poor eating habits and food choices. This in itself can result in an increase in the levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol. Please see blog “Obesity and Sleep Apnea” posted on January 6th, 2014.
3) On the flip side, OSA can result in individuals feeling fatigued (excessive daytime sleepiness). Individuals tend to have lower energy which can trigger poor eating habits which this in turn raises the level of bad cholesterol. To compensate for the lower energy, individuals tend to consume food rich in carbohydrates…..this will boost their energy
Individuals with OSA tend to have a diet higher in calories: increased levels of carbohydrates (as mentioned previously), cholesterol and saturated fat.
The Role of CPAP and Mandibular Advancing Devices (M.A.D’S)
CPAP and MAD’s improves both HDL and triglyceride levels. They reduce fatigue which results in better dietary choices and an increase in the individual’s ability to exercise as they now have more energy.
CPAP and MAD’S work by opening up the airway: this improves the flow of oxygen to the organs of the body.
In the next blog, we will look at the upper airway and what actually occurs when an airway collapses in individuals who suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea…until then…sleep healthy.
Dr. Robert Axelrad, Brampton Dentist