Sleep Apnea, Heart Strain, Narrow Heart Valves… Can You Help For Galina?

By Adam Pick on January 27, 2009

Every once and a while I receive a patient question that really, really, really stumps me. In those situations I simply post a blog about the topic to see if YOU have any ideas.

This just happened when I opened an email from Galina that focuses on sleep apnea, heart strain and heart valve function. Do you have any ideas for Galina? Here is what she writes, “Hello Adam… I love your blog and the information from everyone.  I’d like to ask you if you have ever discussed sleep apnea and it’s strain on the heart?”


Sleep Apnea Heart Strain On Patients With Aortic Valve Stenosis


That’s what we have discovered regarding my husband. We are trying a mouth device to help this condition. He has a narrowed aortic valve (stenosis) due to endocarditis and has to be checked regularly. We are here in Perth for the checkup at the moment.

There is also a possibility that a few seizures he has been suffering are related to the sleep apnea, as the brain gets starved for oxygen. Any thoughts or feedback would be very much appreciated. Best, Galina”

Do you have any ideas for Galina? If so, please leave a comment below!

In advance, thanks for your help!!!

Written by Adam Pick
- Patient & Website Founder

Adam Pick, Heart Valve Patient Advocate

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

Bill says on January 27th, 2009 at 2:28 pm

sleep Apnea is a very real and sometimes difficult condition to diagnosis and treat. I had my Aortic Valve replaced last May and had issues with High Blood Pressure. It was found that I was having severe Sleep Apnea. I was put on a CPAP Machine to help my breathing and maintain my open airway. It works great, but has some drawbacks. Takes a lot of getting used to and it was is one more piece of medical equipment or procedure to use and get used to.
You need to find a Dr. who specializes in sleep disorder and get a full workup. The condition is well treated and easily tolerated
Bill in Atlanta

Spike Spriesterbach says on January 27th, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Sleep apnea can be treated by surgery on the jaw if the cause is a recessed jaw. The jaw bone is cut and moved forward improving the bite and making the airway larger. The other way is with a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) or VPAP (variable) machine. I went through the overnight sleep study and was found to have severe apnea. I was given a CPAP machine with mask and humidifier and it took some time getting used to it. I had a hard time exhaling against the pressure. Then I was given a VPAP which learns your breathing pattern and decreases the pressure when you exhale. It was a godsend although you still must get used to wearing a mask or nostril fittings.
My pulmonologist believes my apnea contributed to my mitral valve leaking and breakdown. I have since had the mitral valve replaced 4 1/2 months ago and feel a little better every day.

Adrian Bishop says on January 27th, 2009 at 6:23 pm

Sorry, no great ideas but … I had an aortic valve replacement done 7 months ago. My wife has sleep apnea. if I do not fall asleep at the same time as her I get a short night because of her stops and sometimes almost violent re-starts. I know from coughing, that if that were me, it would hurt. With all you are going through with the aortic valve and possibly very invasive chest trauma during the surgery, I would definitely work at resolving the apnea beforehand.

Adrian B
St Thomas, US Virgin Islands

Mari says on January 27th, 2009 at 10:31 pm

Have you looked in to a cpap (continuous positive airway) machine? My husband has/had sleep apnea and finally went through the sleep studies and was found to quit breathing 15 times an hour! After 2 months on the machine we are BOTH sleeping soundly all night!!! NO drugs involved and it’s bliss!

Clay Barcus says on January 27th, 2009 at 11:12 pm

I was diagnosed with sleep apnea in 1999 after a back surgery gone bad that also paralyzed my right vocal cord. I have been on a CPAP machine (continuous positive airway pressure) since. I do not nap or sleep without it. It really helps. It does take some getting used to and I do recommend getting what they call nasal pillows. It is a mask that just goes into the nostrils, not over the entire nose. I joke that I am ready for blast-off into outer space, but once you get used to it, you will not lay down without it. I just underwent aortic valve replacement in September 2008 the day after Labor Day. I think if you read up on sleep apnea you will see that it affects all your organs, because when you are sleeping and your organs are deprived of oxygen you are putting undue stress on them. I will add that when I was sent home after heart surgery from the hospital I was put on oxygen too, that is piped into my CPAP machine. My oxygen levels were dropping down to harmful levels, lending to possible strokes or another heart attack. It is much better with the oxygen. I recommend seeing a pulmonologist specializing in sleep study. It sounds like CPAP with oxygen would really help you. I would also add it is hereditary…my mom, dad, and sister are also on CPAP’s and oxygen and all have had heart surgeries. I’ve been told the surgeries on the jaw to correct sleep apnea are pretty severe and not that successful. Good Luck

George S says on January 28th, 2009 at 3:06 pm

I would reiterate the recommendations of others above. See a pulmonologist (an MD who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of breathing/lung disorders) for a complete evaluation, which will probably include a sleep study and perhaps other testing. If the sleep study does indicate significant sleep apnea, the doctor will most probably order CPAP. And yes, the machine does take some getting used to, but most patients do.
Best of luck, George, RRT (Registered Respiratory Therapist)

Nendie says on January 30th, 2009 at 5:50 pm

Hi there,

My dad has suffered from Sleep apnea for a while but his life was transformed with a CPAP breathing machine. It’s important to treat sleep apnea properly as it can have strong health consequences of its own. It also can put a strain on the heart as in serious cases the person stops breathing. Please have a look at the machine:

It has given my Dad a lot more energy and given him the first good nights of sleep in years!

best wishes

Dean says on January 17th, 2011 at 5:18 pm


I am a 46 year old male who had endocarditis 5 years ago and an aortic valve replacement. Last week I was diagnosed with sleep apnea after months of waking 30-40 times a night. I am about to test a CPAP machine and after reading the comments I am looking forward to the possibility of actually getting a good night’s sleep, as I have been told the machine really do work. Thanks for all your comments.

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