A German study found that snoring can be linked to faster development of heart damage in women. While the study shouldn’t prove that sleep apnea causes potentially dangerous heart changes, it shows a strong link between the two. If you snore, especially if you are a woman, it is important to do a sleep study to determine whether or not you have obstructive sleep apnea.
Snoring and heart health
If you snore, the chances are good that it was brought to your attention. Everyone who has ever shared a room with you has likely complained about your snoring. But aside from disturbing your significant other’s sleep from time to time, you might think that snoring isn’t that big of a deal, but you would probably be wrong. If you are a woman, your snoring can be unhealthy even if you have never been diagnosed with sleep apnea. In fact, new research suggests that this could be problematic for your heart.
The study, which was carried out at the University Medical Center Munich in Germany, found that snoring in women can be linked to more rapid development of heart damage than in men. These results are based on a survey of 4,877 British men and women. These subjects were a subset of the approximately 500,000 people across the UK who participated in the UK Biobank, a collection of health-related data.
More than half of the volunteers, a total of 2,536, reported no snoring or had no diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Of the remainder, 1,919 snored but had no diagnosis, and 38 were diagnosed with OSA. Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which the muscles of the throat relax sporadically and block the airways.
All participants were given MRIs to examine their hearts. The imaging showed that both male and female subjects who snore or have obstructive sleep apnea are more likely to have their left ventricle enlarged, suggesting that damage is occurring in the main pumping chamber, leading to that Heart has to work harder.
However, gender differences emerged when researchers began comparing those who snore or have OSA with those who did not have any problems. Looking at the imaging results in this context, it became clear that the size of the left ventricle is significantly larger in women who snore than in their peers who do not snore.
This inequality of enlarged left ventricles, which is significantly worse in female snorers compared to female non-snores than the difference found in male snorers versus non-snores, implies that women may experience previous heart damage, possibly related to undiagnosed OSA . While the study shouldn’t prove that sleep apnea causes potentially dangerous heart changes, it shows a strong link between the two.
But why should snoring be linked to heart problems? OSA is actually a lot more serious than just a snoring problem. Sufferers also experience episodes of respiratory failure during sleep and usually wake up from these periods in shock and gasping. In addition, fatigue, headaches and difficulty concentrating occur during the day. In addition, obstructive sleep apnea has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, hearing loss, high blood pressure, and other health problems. And this isn’t the first time OSA has been linked to heart disease. A 2010 study at the Boston University Medical School in Massachusetts found that obstructive sleep apnea increased the risk of heart failure in men.
Sleep apnea and heart health
Ultimately, the most important finding from the current study is that when it comes to snoring, especially if you are a woman, a sleep study needs to be done to determine whether or not you have obstructive sleep apnea. A sleep study takes place overnight, usually in a hospital or sleep center, and you will be monitored by an EEG machine for information on sleep cycles, respiratory rates, and more. The American Sleep Apnea Association estimates that up to 80 percent of American adults go undiagnosed with this disease.
If tests show you have OSA, your treatment may include using a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine while you sleep to keep your airways open. But there are plenty of other options too, including an oral device that can help keep your jaw in place and prevent airway blockages, control allergies, and lose weight.