Snorers may be at greater risk of heart attacks and strokes than those who are overweight, smoke or have high cholesterol, scientists say.
Startling research has revealed that those who snore are more likely to have thickening or abnormalities in the carotid artery that supplies the brain with oxygenated blood.
This condition is a precursor to a hardening of the arteries, which leads to heart attacks and brain haemorrhages.
Snorers are more likely to have thickening or abnormalities in the carotid artery that supplies the brain with oxygenated blood
Although snoring is more common in people who are overweight it is estimated that about 40 per cent of men and 24 per cent of women are habitual snorers.
For several years now scientists have been aware of a relationship between snoring and cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes.
But experts are now warning the health implications could be far worse than previously thought.
Study leader Dr Robert Deeb, Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, said: 'Snoring is more than a bedtime annoyance and it should not be ignored.
'Patients need to seek treatment in the same way they would if they had sleep apnoea, high blood pressure or other risk factors for cardiovascular disease.'
Sleep apnoea causes interrupted breathing and is a potentially life threatening condition associated with strokes, heart attacks and high blood pressure.
Dr Deeb added: 'Our study adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting isolated snoring may not be as benign as first suspected.
'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.'
Changes in the carotid artery are a precursor a hardening of the arteries, which can cause heart attacks and brain haemorrhages (pictured)
His research, presented at the 2013 Combined Sections Meeting of the Triological Society in Arizona, shows the vibrations of snoring probably cause trauma and subsequent inflammation of the carotid artery. The carotid artery carries oxygen-rich blood to the brain.
Until now, there was little evidence in humans to show a similar connection between 'plain' snoring and cardiovascular risk.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) – 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 becomes OSA.
In the study, Dr Deeb assessed 54 patients aged 18-50, none of whom had sleep apnoea.
They completed a survey about their snoring and had an ultrasound to measure the thickness of their carotid arteries.
Compared to non-snorers, snorers were found to have significantly thicker carotid arteries.
The study also revealed no statistically significant differences in the thickness for patients with or without some of the traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease – smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
Dr Deeb said: 'Snoring is generally regarded as a cosmetic issue by health insurance, requiring significant out of pocket expenses by patients.
'We are hoping to change that thinking so patients can get the early treatment they need, before more serious health issues arise.'
The researchers plan to conduct another long term study, particularly to determine if there is an increased number of heart attacks and strokes among patients who snore.
The research has been submitted to The Laryngoscope journal for publication.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2268217/Snoring-increases-risk-heart-attack-smoking-overweight.html#ixzz2J01WvQEj
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