Think for a moment about the factors that influence health. Chances are you thought about: smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and insufficient exercise. Maybe you added in family history of disease, and stress. How about snoring?
What!?! Well, according to researchers at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, snoring may put your health at a greater risk than any of the above.
Their study revealed that isolated snoring may not be as benign as first suspected. The trauma and subsequent inflammation caused by the vibrations of snoring can lead to changes in the carotid arteries – the pair of blood vessels that deliver blood to your brain and head. Snoring can cause a build-up of plaque which can eventually block the blood supply to the brain and increases the risk of stroke.
“Snoring is more than a bedtime annoyance and it shouldn’t be ignored. 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,” says lead author Robert Deeb, M.D., with the Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery at Henry Ford.
Obstructive sleep apnea– a sleep disorder that occurs due to the collapse of the airway in the throat during sleep and causes loud snoring and periodic pauses in breathing – has long been linked to cardiovascular disease, along with a host of other serious health issues.
But the risk for cardiovascular disease may actually begin with snoring, long before it develops into obstructive sleep apnea.
Investigators reviewed data for 913 patients aged 18-50, who had participated in a diagnostic sleep study, none of whom had sleep apnea. 54 patients completed a survey regarding their snoring habits, and underwent a carotid artery ultrasound to measure the thickness of the innermost two layers of the carotid arteries. This test is able to pick up the first signs of carotid artery disease.
What they found was that snorers were had significantly greater thickening of the carotid arteries, compared to non-snorers. Interestingly, no statistically significant differences in carotid artery thickening could be found for patients with or without some of the traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease – smoking, diabetes, hypertension or hypercholesterolemia.
“Snoring is generally regarded as a cosmetic issue by health insurance, requiring significant out-of-pocket expenses by patients. We’re hoping to change that thinking so patients can get the early treatment they need, before more serious health issues arise.”
The Henry Ford research team plans to conduct another long-term study on this topic, particularly to determine if there’s an increased incidence of cardiovascular events in patients who snore.
In the meantime, instead of kicking your snoring bed partner out of bed, seek out medical treatment for him…or her.