Snoring may put individuals at a greater risk than those who are overweight, smoke, or have high cholesterol to have thickening or abnormalities in the carotid artery, according to researchers at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
The increased thickening in the lining of the two large blood vessels that supply the brain with oxygenated blood is a precursor to atherosclerosis, a hardening of the arteries responsible for many vascular diseases.
“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 study author Robert Deeb, MD, with the Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery at Henry Ford.
“Our study adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that 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.”
The study reveals changes in the carotid arteries of snorers—even for those without sleep apnea—likely due to the trauma and subsequent inflammation caused by the vibrations of snoring.
Study results were presented at the 2013 Combined Sections Meeting of the Triological Society in Scottsdale, Ariz. It has been submitted to The Laryngoscope journal for publication.
Until now, there was little evidence in humans to show a similar connection between snoring and cardiovascular risk.
For the Henry Ford study, Dr Deeb and senior study author Kathleen Yaremchuk, MD, reviewed data for 913 patients who had been evaluated by the institution’s 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.
In all, 54 patients completed the snore outcomes survey regarding their snoring habits, as well as underwent a carotid 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.
Compared to non-snorers, snorers were found to have a significantly greater intima-media thickness of the carotid arteries, the study finds.
The study also revealed 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.