Does snoring harm the heart?
Researchers have now found that snoring as well as so-called obstructive sleep apnea can lead to impaired heart function. Apparently women are particularly badly affected.
Scientists at the Radiological Society of North America recently found that snoring and obstructive sleep apnea can affect heart function. The doctors released a press release on the results of their study.
What is snoring?
Experts understand snoring as a sleep pattern in which a person breathes while making a snorting or moaning sound. The National Sleep Foundation suggests that about 90 million people snore in the United States alone. Snoring can become increasingly dangerous for those affected with increasing age and even lead to heart diseases.
What is sleep apnea?
There are different types of sleep apnea, the most common of which is called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). According to the researchers, at least 18 million US adults suffer from sleep apnea. This symptom pattern affects breathing patterns during sleep, so that one person stops breathing and starts over again. About half of the people who snore loudly suffer from OSA. When obstructive sleep apnea occurs, the muscles in the throat affect the airflow, which are actually responsible for keeping the airways open.
Women are more affected
According to the results of the new study, recently presented at the Radiological Society of North America's annual meeting in Chicago, snoring and OSA may cause heart problems earlier in women than in men. However, it remains unclear whether sleep apnea directly causes heart disease or not, say the doctors. Some experts believe that people with sleep apnea have an increased risk of high blood pressure. However, many people who suffer from sleep apnea also show other diseases. This is one of the reasons why it is more difficult to make a direct link between sleep apnea and heart disease.
Link between OSA, hypertension and obesity?
A recent sleep study found that too little or too much sleep affects cognitive function. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), treatment for sleep apnea in some people with sleep apnea and high blood pressure could also cause blood pressure to drop. Such findings show a possible connection between hypertension and sleep apnea. OSA is also associated with obesity, a risk factor for heart disease. Obesity contributes to sleep apnea and sleep deprivation caused by sleep apnea can lead to further obesity in the long run. As a person gains more weight, the throat muscles that normally keep the airways open relax, and sleep apnea increases.
Where did the study data come from?
For their new study, the researchers analyzed the relationship between cardiac parameters and diagnosed OSA and self-reported snoring using data from the British biobank. This data included 4,877 participants who had received a cardiac MRI scan. The scientists divided the test subjects into three different groups: people with OSA, people with self-reported snoring and participants without these problems.
OSA is often not recognized
When comparing the snoring people with the group without sleep disorders, the researchers discovered a striking difference in the so-called left ventricular mass in women compared to men. Increased left ventricular mass means that the heart has to work harder to meet the body's needs. If this pattern occurs in people who snore according to their own reports, it could indicate an undiagnosed OSA. The heart parameters of women are apparently more severely affected by OSA or snoring. The researchers also found that the number of OSA cases diagnosed in the study was extremely low, suggesting that OSA is underdiagnosed across the board.
More research is needed
When people snore, they should encourage their partner to watch them and look for periods during sleep when they stop breathing and then gasp for breath. If you are unsure, you can also spend the night in a sleep laboratory, where breathing is constantly monitored during sleep and even minor changes can be recorded. The team is hoping for further research to fully understand the gender differences related to snoring and OSA. (as)