Snoring & Heart Disease: Study Shows Risk


Does snoring keep you or your partner up at night? Considering a new study showing the potential health risk between snoring and heart disease, you may want to discuss the issue with your doctor. According to the study, excessive snoring may cause thickening in the walls of carotid arteries (arteries that link the heart to the brain).

How serious of a health risk is this? How does snoring affect heart function? To find out more about snoring and your heart, Go Red For Women sat down with Dr. Robert Deeb, lead author on the study and senior staff surgeon in the Department of Otolaryngology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

Go Red For Women (GRFW): What inspired you to facilitate this study in the first place?

Dr. Robert Deeb (RD): We had a hunch that snoring was more of a medical condition than a social nuisance or cosmetic issue, as it is more commonly thought. Snoring can also be an indication of sleep apnea (a disorder that collapses the airway and causes pauses in breathing), which we know is linked to cardiovascular disease.

GRFW: Did you focus on people with sleep apnea for this study?

RD: No. We didn’t want to include people with sleep apnea because we already knew they had a serious physical condition and we thought it would confuse the results.

Instead, we asked 913 patients ranging in age from 18 to 50 years old who did not have sleep apnea to come to our clinic and fill out a survey on their snoring habits. From there, we did ultrasounds of the carotid arteries in each person. We compared the thickness in snorers compared to non-snorers and found that, on average, snorers had a greater degree of thickening in their heart’s carotid arteries. It should be noted that everyone has some degree of thickness to the wall of their carotid arteries, but we found this value to be higher on average in snorers.

GRFW: Why does snoring cause this thickening of the carotid arteries occur?

RD: We think the thickening happens because the arteries are reacting to the vibration of the snoring. Part of the carotid arteries are very close to the throat, only a few centimeters separates them, so it makes sense that the vibration would affect them.

GRFW: Does thickening of carotid arteries lead to heart disease?

RD: Carotid arteries come off the aorta and are all part of the vascular system. For this study, we did not study the heart, but we do know that thickening of arteries can be the first sign of an increased risk of stroke and arteriosclerosis (hardening of arteries), two conditions that can affect the heart.

GRFW: Should people who snore discuss this with their doctor at their next visit?

RD: It isn’t a bad idea, especially if the snoring is persistent.

GRFW: Is there any way to cure snoring?

RD: Yes. There are procedures that can cure snoring. These procedures help alter or stiffen the shape of the palate and help the vibratory affect not be so pronounced. But if you aren’t interested in surgery, I recommend reducing your alcohol intake and losing excess weight.

Learn more about heart disease research on Go Red.