Is Untreated OSA Dangerous?
During an obstructive episode, carbon dioxide begins to build up in your blood stream. As carbon dioxide continues to rise toward unsafe levels, your autonomic nervous system constricts the blood vessels within your arms and legs, attempting to direct the remaining blood oxygen to your vital organs. When a sleep apneic finally gasps for breath, he or she exhales carbon dioxide and inhales fresh oxygen. This stimulates the autonomic nervous system to dilate the peripheral vasculature, thereby reoxygenating the patient’s arms and legs. As one might imagine, if this happens twenty to fifty times an hour (or more), this places enormous stress on the patient’s cardiovascular health.
Accordingly, many physicians estimate that patients afflicted by untreated sleep apnea suffer a 25% higher likelihood of otherwise preventable heart attacks or strokes.