Debbie Nicholson

Snoring may be more than an irritation; it may an early warning sign for your future health

Snoring is noisy breathing during sleep. It is a common problem among all ages and both genders, and it affects approximately 90 million American adults, 37 million on a regular basis according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Snoring disrupts your sleep and your partner’s but can also lead to fragmented and unrefreshing sleep but now researchers from Henry Ford reveal that snoring could give you a higher risk to have thickening or abnormalities in the carotid artery. The risk is greater than in those who are overweight, smoke or have high cholesterol.

Dr. Robert Deebs, MD, Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery at Henry Ford and lead author of the study, states “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.”

This new study reveals changes in the carotid artery with snorers, even those snorers who do not have sleep apnea which is likely due to the trauma and subsequent inflammation caused by the vibrations of snoring.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a disorder in which breathing is briefly and repeatedly interrupted during sleep. The "apnea" in sleep apnea refers to a breathing pause that lasts at least ten seconds. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open, despite efforts to breathe noted by The Sleep Foundation. Sleep apnea has been strongly linked to heart disease and other serious health conditions.

Cardiovascular risk just may actually start with snoring instead of the long held belief of it being started by obstructed sleep apnea. The researchers note there is little evidence in humans to show a similar connection between snoring and cardiovascular risk.

For this new study, Dr. Deeb, and Dr. Kathleen L. Yaremchuck, MD, ENT-otolaryngologist, Henry Ford, and senior author of study, examined data on 913 patients who had been evaluated by the institutions sleep center. Patients, ages 18-50, who had participated in a diagnostic sleep study between December 2006 and January 2012 were included in the study. None of the participants had sleep apnea.

Overall, 54 patients completed the snore outcomes survey regarding their snoring habits. They also underwent an artery duplex ultrasound to measure the intima-media thickness of the carotid arteries.

Carotid intima-media thickness, a measurement of the thickness of the innermost two layers of the arterial wall, may be used to detect the presence and to track the progression of atherosclerotic disease. Intima-media thickness is the first sign of carotid artery disease.

“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 results revealed those who snored had a significantly greater intima-media thickness of the carotid arteries, in comparison to those who do not snore. Also revealed was no statistically significant differences in intima-media thickness for patients with or without some of the traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease; smoking, diabetes, hypertension or hypercholesterolemia.

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.

The study was funded by Henry Ford.

Study results will be presented January 25 at the 2013 Combined Sections Meeting of the Triological Society in Scottsdale, Arizona. This study has been submitted to The Laryngoscope journal for publication.

In 2007, Yale University researchers had found that obstructed sleep apnea increased a person’s risk for a heart attack or dying by 30 percent over a span of four or five years.

More information on sleep and snoring can be found online at the Sleep Foundation.


Slideshow; Snoring and Health Conditions

Associated Article; Apnea Masks lowering Cardiovascular disease risk