Snoring problems? Maybe it’s time to for a risk assessment for stroke. A recent study published in the journal Sleep reported that “heavy snoring is an independent risk factor for early carotid atherosclerosis, which may progress to be associated with stroke.”
The study was the first to use an objective way of measuring snoring intensity. The conduct of the study was described below:
“One-hundred-and-ten participants with ages ranging from 45 to 80 years were examined in a sleep laboratory. Volunteers were categorized as snorers and non-snorers with only mild, nonhypoxic obstructive sleep apnea. Participants underwent polysomnography with quantification of snoring, bilateral carotid and femoral artery ultrasound with quantification of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular risk assessment. A snoring index (the number of snores per hour) and snoring sleep time (the total number of 30-second sleep periods that contained three or more snore sounds expressed in a percentage) were used to categorize participants.”
Results of the study were summarized as follows in the table below:
|Type of snorer||% night snoring||prevalence of carotid atherosclerosis|
|mild snorers||0 to 25%||
|moderate snorers||25to 50%||
|heavy snorers||more than 50%||
Loud and regular snoring is a warning symptom of obstructive sleep apnea, a sleeping disorder which has been linked to chronic conditions, including respiratory problems and cardiovascular disorders. In another study, sleep apnea has also been linked to increased risk of death. It seems more prevalent among adult males (40%) than adult females (24%).
The causes of sleep apnea are complex and many. Preexisting respiratory and cardiovascular conditions described above may contribute to this sleeping disorder. It has also been linked to obesity, unhealthy eating habits (e.g. fat-rich diet), lack of exercise in women, and excessive alcohol intake. Another study has identified some risk factors for snoring as follows:
- Exposure to pets such as dogs as a baby
- Being hospitalized respiratory tract infections before the age of 2
- Recurring ear infections as a child
- Growing up in a large family
We cannot change some of these risk factors but there are some lifestyle factors that can be changed.
According to the authors of the currents study
“treatments such as weight loss, decreased alcohol intake, oral appliance therapy and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy have all been shown to successfully reduce snoring. There are no studies on whether reducing snoring will reverse damage to the carotid arteries.”
Remember, the less your snore, the better you (and your partner) can sleep. Let’s hope that this can also lower your risk for atherosclerosis and stroke, and death.
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