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Is Sleep Apnea Increasing your Risk of a Stroke?

Nearly 1 of every 20 deaths are caused by strokes. In addition, a stroke happens every 40 seconds in the United States. With strokes contributing to such a higher number of deaths, it’s important to do what you can to decrease your risk of stroke. Fortunately, by knowing the risk factors of stroke, you can make lifestyle changes to decrease your risk.

Discover some of the surprising risk factors of stroke such as sleep apnea and what you can do to prevent it.

young man laying in bed, snoring loud

What is a Stroke?

A stroke is an event that happens when the blood supply to your brain becomes interrupted and the brain tissue becomes damaged. In most cases, the interruption is a result of a blood clot blocking a blood vessel in the neck or brain. Strokes can cause death, movement problems, numbness, pain, difficulty remembering, thinking, or speaking, and contribute to emotional problems including depression.

How Sleep Apnea Increases Your Risk of Stroke

Sleep apnea is one of the top contributors to stroke. The more severe your sleep apnea, the larger your risk for stroke. There are a few reasons why sleep apnea contributes to stroke. First off, when sleep apnea goes untreated, you will stop breathing hundreds of times per night because your airway becomes obstructed.

Your body then wakes up to start breathing again and with this comes a release of stress hormones and an increase in blood pressure. Without sleep apnea treatment or blood pressure control, sleep apnea can cause atrial fibrillation. High blood pressure and atrial fibrillation both increase the risk for stroke.

With that said, it’s incredibly important to get sleep apnea treatment if you do have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea treatment will decrease your risk of stroke significantly.

Other Factors That Increase Risk For Stroke

Untreated sleep apnea isn’t the only factor that increases your risk for stroke. There are other health conditions and lifestyle choices that can also increase your risk for stroke.

Sedentary Lifestyle

A recent study found that people younger than 60 years old who live a life with low physical activity during leisure time also have an increased risk of stroke. People who spent 8 or more hours of leisure time completely sedentary had a significant increase in risk for stroke. Sedentary leisure time is considered awake activities completed while sitting or laying down while not at work. This means that when you’re not working, you are sitting or laying down.

Instead of getting off work and coming home and watching TV for the rest of the night, it’s best to get some physical activity in or at least spend some time on your feet cooking and cleaning. The less time you spend sitting, the less risk you have for stroke.


Smoking is one of the biggest contributors to an increased risk of stroke. For instance, smoking makes you 2 times more likely to die from a stroke. In addition, smoking 20 cigarettes per day makes you 6 times more likely to have a stroke than a non-smoker.

Smoking can also provoke sleep apnea and cause it to be more severe. By quitting smoking, you can also help prevent or lessen the severity of sleep apnea which will also decrease your risk of stroke.

If you want to decrease your risk of stroke, quitting smoking can have one of the biggest impacts.


If you suffer from either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you have an increased risk of stroke. For example, those with diabetes have a 1.5x higher chance of stroke than those without diabetes. You can reduce your risk by keeping your glucose levels in check.

Heart Disease

Heart disease is the second biggest risk factor of strokes and makes people more likely to die from stroke. Both strokes and heart disease have a lot of overlapping risk factors. By reducing your risk for heart disease, you will also reduce your risk for stroke.

High Blood Pressure

Blood pressure that rests at or above 140/90 can damage the blood vessels and increase the risk of stroke. If you have high blood pressure, don’t leave it untreated so you can decrease your risk of stroke.

High Blood Cholesterol and Lipids

High cholesterol can cause the arteries to thicken or harden with plaque build-up which decreases the blood flow to the brain. If the blood flow comes to a stop, it will cause a stroke. Healthy habits in addition to cholesterol medication can help decrease your risk.

High Red Blood Cells

When the amount of red blood cells increases, it causes the blood to thicken which can result in more blood clots. As a result, the possibility of stroke increases. Regular exercise and healthier eating habits can help with this.

Lack of Exercise

A lack of exercise can contribute to obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. By including at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, you can reduce your risk of stroke.

Reduce Your Risk of Stroke – Get Sleep Apnea Treatment in Woburn and Winchester Area

There is a lot of overlap between the risk factors for stroke and the side effects of sleep apnea. Untreated sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure, impact cholesterol levels, cause weight gain, and diabetes. By treating sleep apnea, eating healthier, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking, you can reduce your risk of stroke and improve your own sleep apnea condition.

If you’re searching for the right sleep apnea treatment for you, Divine Smiles can help. Please call (781) 396-8558 to book an appointment with Dr. Clancy, our sleep apnea dentist in the Woburn and Winchester area, today.

By Ryan M. Clancy, DMD, MAGD, LVIF, FPFA, FIAPA | September 7th, 2021 | Sleep Apnea

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