Posts Tagged ‘endothelial dysfunction’

Sleep Apnea: Bad For Your Health (General, Sexual & Urinary)

February 6, 2016

Andrew Siegel MD   2/6/16

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(Thank you Pixabay for image)

This is an important topic, an issue that the medical community is just getting wind of (pardon the pun) with respect to how common a problem it is and how significant its consequences are. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) negatively affects all aspects of health, including sexual and urinary function. Many patients with OSA present with urological symptoms that are not genital/urinary in origin, their root cause being the OSA.  When the OSA is treated, the urological symptoms improve dramatically. 

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a chronic medical disorder that adversely affects one’s sleep, health and quality of life. It is characterized by repeated complete or partial interruptions of breathing during sleep due to mechanical obstruction of the upper airway passage. Muscle relaxation during sleeping—including those muscles that support the tongue and throat—results in the soft tissues in the throat sagging and collapsing under the force of gravity, pulling the airway closed and causing intermittent suffocation. This reduces or halts breathing and causes below-normal levels of oxygen in the blood, giving rise to insomnia and restless sleep with frequent awakenings. OSA sufferers wake up fatigued and have excessive daytime sleepiness, which correlates with an increased chance of motor vehicle accidents, “fatigue” eating and sleep deprivation-related cognitive impairment and mood disturbances.

OSA is present in about 25% of men and 10% of women in the USA. It is more prevalent with aging and with obesity.  Snoring in a loud and exaggerated fashion is typical, and snorting and gasping for air is characteristic. Other manifestations of OSA are a dry mouth and throat and abnormal daytime breathing patterns–particularly loud, shallow mouth breathing. It is not uncommon for those with OSA to have anatomical irregularities, including a thick neck, enlarged tonsils and palate and jaw abnormalities.

Obesity and OSA share much in common, both chronic diseases that give rise to serious medical issues affecting quantity and quality of life. OSA results in hypoxia (lack of oxygen supply), an unhealthy state since every cell, tissue and organ in our body depends upon oxygen to fuel proper function. A spectrum of serious medical issues can result, including headache, impaired glucose metabolism/type 2 diabetes, depression, chronic kidney disease, peripheral neuropathy, glaucoma and cardiovascular disease. OSA is detrimental to endothelial cell function, the specialized cells that line arteries, and OSA-related cardiovascular disease includes high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure, arrhythmia and atrial fibrillation. OSA increases the risk of premature mortality.

OSA is associated with urological issues including decreased sex drive, low testosterone levels, sexual dysfunction in both men and women, overactive bladder and frequent nighttime urinating (a.k.a. nocturia).

OSA and Urination

Many with OSA have urinary symptoms because of the OSA and not because of problems with their bladder, prostate, kidneys, etc. They often end up in a urologist’s office because their primary symptoms are urinary. The two most prevalent urinary issues associated with OSA are nighttime urination and overactive bladder.

Nocturnal urine production by the kidneys is based upon many factors including fluid intake as well as the production of certain hormones. The two key hormones involved are anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) and atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP). ADH is a pituitary hormone that regulates water excretion by the kidney, restricting urine production so that humans maintain their blood volume. ANP is the opposite—a diuretic that increases water excretion by the kidney, causing abundant urine production, as well as inhibiting ADH.

Here is what happens with OSA: Vigorous efforts to breathe against an obstructed airway result in negative pressures in the chest. This increases the volume of venous blood that returns to the heart, causing distension of the right heart chambers (atrium and ventricle). The heart responds to this distension as a false sign of fluid volume overload, with a hormonal response of secreting ANP. As a result of the ANP secretion, high volumes of urine are produced during sleep, resulting in sleep-disruptive nocturia. There may be as many as 6 or more nighttime awakenings to urinate. When OSA is treated it results in a significant improvement, if not complete resolution, of the sleep disruptive nocturia.

In contrast to nocturia, overactive bladder is more of a daytime issue. Its symptoms include the sudden and urgent desire to urinate (a.k.a. “gotta go”), urinating frequently, and possibly urinary leakage (urgency urinary incontinence). The cardinal symptom of OAB is urgency, the sudden and compelling desire to urinate that is difficult to postpone. Studies have shown a direct relationship between the severity of OSA and the severity of OAB symptoms.

 OSA and Sex

Sexual issues are common among men and women with OSA. Men typically experience a loss of interest in sex, low testosterone and difficulties obtaining and maintaining erections.  Women can experience a loss in sex drive and other symptoms of female sexual dysfunction.  Neurological testing of patients with OSA-related erectile dysfunction has shown an absent or impaired bulbo-cavernosus reflex, which is a measure of pelvic floor muscle response to sexual stimulation. The extent of impairment is directly proportional to the severity of the OSA. Essentially, this is peripheral neuropathy—nerve damage that negatively affects sexual function.

 Diagnosing OSA

Despite growing awareness of OSA, 90% of those with the disorder are undiagnosed and untreated. The diagnosis is made with overnight sleep studies, performed under the care of a pulmonologist, an internist who specializes in lung problems. This study records sleep stages, heart rhythm, leg movements, breathing patterns and oxygen saturations. OSA is defined as a complete cessation of airflow lasting more than 10 seconds (apneic episodes). The degree of OSA is based upon the number of episodes per hour of breathing cessation:

  • Mild OSA: 5-15 apneic episodes per hour
  • Moderate OSA: 15-30 apneic episodes per hour
  • Severe OSA: more than 30 apneic episodes per hour

As an alternative to overnight sleep studies that require an overnight stay in a sleep lab, home sleep testing machines are now available.

Treating OSA

Since many with OSA carry the burden of extra pounds–which contributes in a major way to the problem–the first-line treatment is lifestyle improvement. This includes healthy eating, weight loss, exercise, smoking cessation, etc. Additionally, alcohol and other sedative medications (that can further interfere with breathing) should be avoided. Positional therapy–avoiding the supine position and instead sleeping upright–can be helpful as well.

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the most common and effective treatment for OSA and is considered the gold standard. This is an apparatus that maintains the airway and airflow, preventing apnea and the negative consequences of lack of oxygen. The problem with CPAP is that it is a somewhat cumbersome device that some people tolerate poorly. Alternatively, oral appliances that are fitted by a dentist can be effective, are less cumbersome than CPAP and do not require an electrical source. A procedure under investigation is the implantation of a hypoglossus nerve stimulators, which can help prevent some of the involved muscles from sagging and causing obstruction. On occasion, surgery such as uvulo-palato-pharyngoplasty performed by an ear/nose/throat surgeon is needed to help alleviate the obstructed breathing passage.

Bottom Line: OSA causes reduced levels of oxygen in the blood and therefore diminished oxygen supply to all cells in the body. Oxygen is vital for cellular function, and similar to the mechanical choking of one’s neck from OSA, so the cells, tissues and organs of the body “choke” in response to insufficient oxygen. The symptoms of OSA are due to the collateral damage from this lack of oxygen with impaired nerve and blood vessel function being particularly detrimental. Many urological issues can develop as a result of OSA, including sleep-disruptive nighttime urination, overactive bladder and altered sexual function. Fortunately, OSA is a treatable condition.

A shout-out to my friend and dentist extraordinaire who has expertise on OSA and the use of oral appliances:  Warren Boardman, DDS, Bergen County Center for Snoring, Sleep Apnea & CPAP Intolerance, 75 Chestnut Street, Ridgewood, NJ, 07450, 201-445-4808

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Author of Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health: available in e-book (Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo) and paperback: www.MalePelvicFitness.com. In the works is The Kegel Fix: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health.

Co-creator of Private Gym, a comprehensive, interactive, FDA-registered follow-along male pelvic floor muscle training program. Built upon the foundational work of Dr. Arnold Kegel, Private Gym empowers men to increase pelvic floor muscle strength, tone, power, and endurance: www.PrivateGym.com or Amazon.

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Man’s Motivation for Medical Ministration: His Penis

October 18, 2014

Andrew Siegel MD

 

shutterstock_side view manjpeg

 

You—as a man—are a master of denial, who, through a combination of nature and nurture, often play the stoic, tough guy, independent, cool as a cucumber, stubborn, non-demonstrative, too-proud-to-ask-directions act. You typically serve the role of provider, protector, hunter, and warrior as opposed to your nurturing and more emotional female gender mate. Furthermore, you are literally “tainted” by testosterone levels that can biochemically impair your ability to think rationally. Truth is that deep inside, most men are actually weak-kneed milquetoasts who are put to shame by women when it comes to true bravado. Regarding seeking help in the form of medical care, men are much more reluctant to do so than women, particularly preventive health care, and medical care is often not sought until after a problem develops, establishes itself and worsens.

Men’s Health: Facts

  • Men live 6 years less than women on average
  • 36% of men seek medical care only when they become really ill
  • 30% of men defer seeking medical help as long as they can
  • 90 million men have a usual place of medical care, as opposed to 106 million women
  • 30 million men reported no office visits with a physician in the past year, as opposed to 16 million women
  • Men have higher rates of inactivity, poor nutrition, and excessive alcohol consumption than women
  • More than 50% of premature death in men in the USA are result of chronic, but preventable medical conditions

One of the challenges of being a physician is to persuade men to pursue preventive health services. Over the years, however, getting the male patient into the office has actually become much easier, thanks to the emerging field of sexual medicine, the availability of Viagra and other ED drugs, and Big Pharma’s extensive direct-to-consumer advertising.

Viagra was the initial drug in its class that addressed a previously unmet medical need with the collateral effect of being the “carrot” that enticed men to see their doctor. The direct-to-consumer advertising effort has resulted in a change in name of the pejorative term “impotence” into the more euphemistic term “erectile dysfunction,” de-stigmatizing sexual dysfunction, resulting in patients more readily making appointments. Big Pharma has also made the word “testosterone,” previously the domain of endocrinologists and urologists, into a commonly used household word, and numerous patients now appear in the office requesting to know what their “T” is.

Men may be stoic when it comes to their general health but when it comes to their genital health it is a different story. To many, their penis is literally their GPS, and when its function goes south, they become immediately motivated to find medical help! Never mind that they are having chest pain that gets dismissed as indigestion—an episode or two of failure to launch an erection is all it takes for an “emergency” appointment! There is some real truth to the concept that men think with their penises.

What most men do not realize is that they actually have a “canary in their trousers,” analogous to the “canary in the coal mine” carried by mine workers into the mines, the death of which would indicate the presence of dangerous gases. Since the penile arteries are generally rather small (diameter of 1 to 2 millimeters) and the coronary (heart) arteries larger (4 millimeters), it stands to reason that if vascular disease is affecting the tiny penile arteries, it may soon affect the larger coronary arteries as well—if not now, then at some time in the future. In other words, the fatty plaque that compromises blood flow to the smaller vessels of the penis may also do so to the larger vessels of the heart and thus ED may be considered a genital “stress test.” 

In fact, the presence of ED is as much of a predictor of cardiovascular disease as is a strong family history of cardiac problems, tobacco smoking, or elevated cholesterol. The British cardiologist Graham Jackson expanded the initials ED to mean: Endothelial Dysfunction (endothelial cells being the type of cells that line the insides of arteries); Early Detection (of cardiovascular disease); and Early Death (if missed).

Bottom Line: Because many men have an “obsession”—if not a “fascination,” with their penises—a dysfunction in this department is often the motivating factor that drives them to seek medical help, which often uncovers other medical issues. The pharmaceutical companies have developed excellent medications to treat ED and are credited with the name “ED” and for de-stigmatizing sexual issues are also responsible for getting the stoic gender into the physician’s office. So man’s peno-centric focus and Big Pharma are actually beneficial for men’s health.

 

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”: www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Author of Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health: http://www.MalePelvicFitness.com

Private Gym: http://www.PrivateGym.com

Sex and the Mediterranean Diet

February 1, 2014

Blog # 139

Sexuality is a very important part of our human existence, both for purposes of procreation as well as pleasure.  Although not a necessity for a healthy life, the loss or diminution of sexual function may result in loss of self-esteem, embarrassment, a sense of isolation and frustration, and even depression. Therefore, for many of us it is vital that we maintain our sexual health. Loss of sexual function further exacerbates progression of sexual dysfunction—the deficiency of genital blood flow that often causes sexual dysfunction produces a state of poor oxygen levels (hypoxia) in the genital tissues, which induces scarring (fibrosis) that further compounds the problem.  So “use it or lose it” is a very relevant statement when it comes to sexual function, as much as it relates to muscle function.

Healthy sexual function for a man involves a satisfactory libido (sex drive), the ability to obtain and maintain a rigid erection, and the ability to ejaculate and experience a climax. For a woman, sexual function involves a healthy libido and the ability to become aroused, lubricate adequately, to have sexual intercourse without pain or discomfort, and the ability to achieve an orgasm.   Sexual function is a very complex event contingent upon the intact functioning of a number of systems including the endocrine system (produces sex hormones), the central and peripheral nervous systems (provides the nerve control) and the vascular system (conducts the blood flow).

A healthy sexual response is largely about adequate blood flow to the genital and pelvic area, although hormonal, neurological, and psychological factors are also important.  The increase in the blood flow to the genitals from sexual stimulation is what is responsible for the erect penis in the male and the well-lubricated vagina and engorged clitoris in the female. Diminished blood flow—often on the basis of an accumulation of fatty deposits creating narrowing within the walls of blood vessels—is a finding associated with the aging. This diminution in blood flow to our organs will negatively affect the function of all of our systems, since every cell in our body is dependent upon the vascular system for delivery of oxygen and nutrients and removal of metabolic waste products.  Sexual dysfunction is often on the basis of decreased blood flow to the genitals from pelvic atherosclerosis, the accumulation of fatty deposits within the walls of the blood vessels that bring blood to the penis and vagina.

Sexual dysfunction may be a sign of cardiovascular disease. In other words, the quality of erections in a man and the quality of sexual response in a female can serve as a barometer of cardiovascular health. The presence of sexual dysfunction can be considered the equivalent of a genital stress test and may be indicative of a cardiovascular problem that warrants an evaluation for arterial disease elsewhere in the body (heart, brain, aorta, peripheral blood vessels).  The presence of sexual dysfunction is as much of a predictor of cardiovascular disease as is a strong family history of cardiac disease, tobacco smoking, or elevated cholesterol. The British cardiologist Graham Jackson has expanded the initials E.D. (Erectile Dysfunction) to mean Endothelial Dysfunction (endothelial cells being the type of cells that line the insides of arteries), Early Detection (of cardiovascular disease), and Early Death (if missed). The bottom line is that heart healthy is sexual healthy.

Many adults are beset with Civilization Syndrome, a cluster of health issues that have arisen as a direct result of our sedentary lifestyle and poor dietary choices.  Civilization Syndrome can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol and can result in such health problems as diabetes, heart attack, stroke, cancer, and premature death.  The diabetic situation in our nation has become outrageous—20 million people have diabetes and more than 50 million are pre-diabetic, many of whom are unaware of their pre-diabetic state! It probably comes as no surprise that diabetes is one of the leading causes of sexual dysfunction in the United States.

Civilization Syndrome can cause a variety of health issues that result in sexual dysfunction.  Obesity (external fat) is associated with internal obesity and fatty matter clogging up the arteries of the body including the arteries which function to bring blood to the genitalia.  Additionally, obesity can have a negative effect on our sex hormone balance (the balance of testosterone and estrogens), further contributing to sexual dysfunction. High blood pressure will cause the heart to have to work harder to get the blood flowing through the increased resistance of the arteries. Blood pressure lowering medications will treat this, but as a result of the decreased pressure, there will be less forceful blood flow through the arteries.  Thus, blood pressure medications, although very helpful to prevent the negative effects of hypertension—heart attacks, strokes, etc.—will contribute to sexual dysfunction.  High cholesterol will cause fatty plaque buildup in our arteries, compromising blood flow and contributing to sexual dysfunction.  Tobacco constricts blood vessels and impairs blood flow through our arteries, including those to our genitals. Smoking is really not very sexy at all!  Stress causes a surge of adrenaline release from the adrenal glands. The effect of adrenaline is to constrict blood vessels and decrease sexual function.  In fact, men with priapism (a prolonged and painful erection) are often treated with penile injections of an adrenaline-like chemical.

A healthy lifestyle is of paramount importance towards the endpoint of achieving a health quality and quantity of life.  Intelligent lifestyle choices, including proper eating habits, maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in exercise, adequate sleep, alcohol in moderation, avoiding tobacco and stress reduction are the initial approach to treating many of the diseases that are brought on by poor lifestyle choices.  Sexual dysfunction is often in the category of a medical problem that is engendered by imprudent lifestyle choices.  It should come as no surprise that the initial approach to managing sexual issues is to improve lifestyle choices.  Simply by pursuing a healthy lifestyle, Civilization Syndrome can be prevented or ameliorated, and the myriad of medical problems that can ensue from Civilization Syndrome, including sexual dysfunction, can be mitigated.

In terms of maintaining good cardiovascular health (of which healthy sexual function can serve as a proxy), eating properly is incredibly important—obviously in conjunction with other smart lifestyle choices. Fueling up with the best and most wholesome choices available will help prevent the build up of fatty plaques within blood vessels that can lead to compromised blood flow. Poor nutritional decisions with a diet replete with fatty, nutritionally-empty choices such as fast food, puts one on the fast tract to clogged arteries that can make your sexual function as small as your belly is big!.

A classic healthy food lifestyle choice is the increasingly popular Mediterranean diet.  This diet, the traditional cooking style of the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea including Spain, France, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Southern Italy, and nearby regions, has been popular for hundreds of years. The Mediterranean cuisine is very appealing to the senses and includes products that are largely plant-based, such as anti-oxidant rich fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes.  Legumes—including peas, beans, and lentils—are a wonderful source of non-animal protein.  Soybeans are high in protein, and contain a healthy type of fat.  Soy is available in many forms— edamame (fresh in the pod), soy nuts (roasted), tofu (bean curd), and soymilk. Fish and poultry are also mainstays of the Mediterranean diet, with limited use of red meats and dairy products.  The benefits of fish in the diet can be fully exploited by eating a good variety of fish.  Olive oil is by far the principal fat in this diet, replacing butter and margarine. The Mediterranean diet avoids processed foods, instead focuses on wholesome products, often produced locally, that are low in saturated fats and high in healthy unsaturated fats. The Mediterranean diet is high in the good fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) which are present in such foods as olive, canola and safflower oils, avocados, nuts, fish, and legumes, and low in the bad fats (saturated fats and trans fats).  The Mediterranean style of eating provides an excellent source of fiber and anti-oxidants.  A moderate consumption of wine is permitted with meals.

Clearly, a healthy diet is an important component of a healthy lifestyle, the maintenance of which can help prevent the onset of many disease processes.  There are many healthy dietary choices, of which the Mediterranean diet is one.  A recent study reported in the International Journal of Impotence Research (Esposito, Ciobola, Giugliano et al) concluded that the Mediterranean diet improved sexual function in those with the Metabolic Syndrome, a cluster of findings including high blood pressure, elevated insulin levels, excessive body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels.  35 patients with sexual dysfunction were put on a Mediterranean diet and after two years blood test markers of endothelial function and inflammation significantly improved in the intervention group versus the control group. The intervention group had a significant decrease in glucose, insulin, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL—the “bad” cholesterol), triglycerides, and blood pressure, with a significant increase in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL—the “good” cholesterol).  14 men in the intervention group had glucose intolerance and 6 had diabetes at baseline, but by two years, the numbers were reduced to 8 and 3, respectively.

Why is the Mediterranean diet so good for our hearts and sexual health?  The Mediterranean diet is high in anti-oxidants—vitamins, minerals and enzymes that act as “scavengers” that can mitigate damage caused by reactive oxygen species.  Reactive oxygen species (also known as free radicals) are the by-products of our metabolism and also occur from oxidative damage from environmental toxins to which we are all exposed.  The oxidative stress theory hypothesizes that, over the course of many years, progressive oxidative damage occurs by the accumulation of the chemicals the accumulation of reactive oxygen species engender diseases, aging and, ultimately, death.  The most common anti-oxidants are Vitamins A, B-6, B-12, C, E, folic acid, lycopene and selenium.  Many plants contain anti-oxidants—they are concentrated in beans, fruits, vegetables, grain products and green tea.  Brightly colored fruits and vegetables are good clues as to the presence of high levels of anti-oxidants—berries, cantaloupe, cherries, grapes, mango, papaya, apricots, plums, pomegranates, tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon, carrots, broccoli, spinach, kale, squash, etc.—are all loaded with anti-oxidants as well as fiber. A Mediterranean diet is also high in omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat present in oily fish including salmon, herring, and sardines.  Nuts—particularly walnuts—have high omega-3 fatty acid content.  Research has demonstrated that these “good” fats have numerous salutary effects, including decreasing triglyceride levels, slightly lowering blood pressure, and decreasing the growth rate of fatty plaque deposits in the walls of our arteries (atherosclerosis), thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and other medical problems. Mediterranean cooking almost exclusively uses olive oil, a rich source of monounsaturated fat, which can lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol while increasing HDL cholesterol. It is also a source of antioxidants including vitamin E.  People from the Mediterranean region generally drink a glass or two of red wine daily with meals. Red wine is a rich source of flavonoid phenols—a type of anti-oxidant—which protects against heart disease by increasing HDL cholesterol and preventing blood clotting, similar to the cardio-protective effect of aspirin.

The incorporation of a healthy and nutritious diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, is a cornerstone for maintaining good health in general, and vascular health, including sexual health, in particular.  The Mediterranean diet—my primary diet and one that I have incorporated quite naturally since it consists of the kinds of foods that I enjoy—is colorful, appealing to the senses, fresh, wholesome, and one that I endorse with great passion. Maintaining a Mediterranean dietary pattern has been correlated with less cardiovascular disease, cancer, and sexual dysfunction.  And it is very easy to follow.  It contains “good stuff”, tasty, filling, and healthy, with a great variety of food and preparation choices—plenty of colorful fresh fruit and vegetables, a variety of fish prepared in a healthy style, not fried or laden with heavy sauces, healthy fats including nuts and olive oil, limited intake of red meat, a delicious glass of red wine.  It’s really very simple and satisfying.  Of course the diet needs to be a part of a healthy lifestyle including exercise and avoidance of harmful and malignant habits including smoking, excessive alcohol, and stress.  So if you want a sexier style of eating, I strongly recommend that you incorporate the Mediterranean diet into your lifestyle.  Intelligent nutritional choices are a key component of physical fitness and physical fitness leads to sexual fitness.

Andrew Siegel, M.D.

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Author of: Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health; in press and available in e-book and paperback formats in March 2014. www.MalePelvicFitness.com

Author of Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food:www.promiscuouseating.com

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