Snoring: Early sign of heart risk
Snoring is more than just an irritating sleep disorder. New research has found snoring can put you at a greater risk for cardiovascular problems than being overweight, smoking, or having high cholesterol.
Medical investigators at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit have determined snorers are more likely to have thickening or abnormalities in their carotid arteries — the two large blood vessels that supply oxygen to the brain — which are precursors to atherosclerosis, a hardening of the arteries that leads to many cardiovascular diseases.
"Snoring is more than a bedtime annoyance and it shouldn't be ignored,” said lead researcher Robert Deeb, M.D., with the Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery at Henry Ford. “Patients need to seek treatment in the same way they would if they had sleep apnea, high blood pressure, or other risk factors for cardiovascular disease.”
Dr. Deeb said the new study adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that snoring is not be benign as many believe.
“So instead of kicking your snoring bed partner out of the room or spending sleepless nights elbowing him or her, seek out medical treatment for the snorer," he said.
For the study, Henry Ford researchers examined the medical charts for 913 patients — aged 18-50 years — who were evaluated by the institution's sleep center between 2006 and 2012. None had sleep apnea. About 54 of the patients completed a snore survey and underwent an ultrasound testing to measure the thickness of their carotid arteries.
The results showed changes in the carotid arteries with snorers, likely due to the trauma and subsequent inflammation caused by the vibrations of snoring.
The study results were presented at a meeting of the Triological Society in Scottsdale, Ariz., and submitted for publication to The Laryngoscope journal.
Dr. Deeb noted past studies have tied cardiovascular disease and other health problems to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which occurs when the airway collapses during sleep and causes dangerous pauses in breathing. But the new research suggests cardiovascular risks may actually begin with snoring, before it becomes apnea.
"Snoring is generally regarded as a cosmetic issue by health insurance, requiring significant out-of-pocket expenses by patients,” he added. “We're hoping to change that thinking so patients can get the early treatment they need, before more serious health issues arise."