Women who snore are at greater risk than men of suffering a heart attack or stroke
- Applies to women who snore or have the common condition sleep apnoea
- Scans reveal these women have thicker heart walls than men with the disorders
- Means heart has to work harder to pump blood around the body
Women who snore are at greater risk than men of suffering a heart attack or stroke, research suggests.
Scans showed women with sleep apnoea – which can make sufferers snore – have thicker heart walls than their male counterparts.
German scientists found the same was true for women who snored but didn’t have the common condition.
Thicker heart walls can stiffen the muscle and make it harder for blood to be pumped around the body, reducing how much oxygen is sent to the muscles and brain.
The researchers have yet to pinpoint why sleep apnoea affects the heart in this way and hope to perform larger trials in the future to confirm any link.
Snoring is more dangerous for women than men, research suggests (stock)
Researchers from Munich University Hospital analysed 4,481 people from the UK Biobank who had undergone a heart MRI scan.
The participants were divided into three groups: 118 who were diagnosed with OSA, 1,886 who claimed to snore and 2,477 with neither.
‘Our analysis showed that in both genders of the OSA and snoring groups there was an increase in left ventricular mass,’ lead author Dr Adrian Curta said.
He added this means ‘the walls of the heart’s main pumping chamber are enlarged, making the heart work harder’.
When comparing the snorers to those who slept peacefully, the researchers found women had a larger left ventricular mass than the men.
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‘We found that the cardiac parameters in women appear to be more easily affected by the disease,’ Dr Curta added.
He continued that women who snore or suffer from OSA may be at greater risk for cardiac involvement.
The findings suggest snoring can gradually evolve into OSA in a process that is associated with left ventricular hypertrophy – a large, thick left ventricular wall.
Dr Curta presented the study at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago.
The researchers fear thousands aren’t being diagnosed with OSA because the prevalence of the condition in the study was ‘extremely low’.
Dr Curta stresses people who snore should get screened for OSA, while those diagnosed with the condition should ensure they are being properly treated.
‘I would encourage people who snore to ask their partner to observe them and look for phases during sleep when they stop breathing for a short while and then gasp for air,’ he said.
‘If unsure, they can spend the night at a sleep lab where breathing is constantly monitored during sleep and even slight alterations can be recorded.’
Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) occurs when the muscles in the throat relax and narrow during sleep, interrupting breathing.
Loud snoring is a common symptom of the condition, as well as laboured breathing, gasping for air and daytime fatigue.
OSA is thought to affect between four and 10 per cent of people in the UK. In the US, around 22million people are believed to suffer.
Treatment depends on a patient’s OSA cause. Weight loss, for example, can improve the condition in overweight people.
Cutting down on alcohol and sleeping on your side can also help. Surgery and special machines can also keep the upper airways open at night.
WHAT IS OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNOEA?
Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) occurs when the walls of a person’s throat relax and narrow during sleep, blocking their airways.
This interrupts normal breathing, with symptoms including loud snoring, noisy and laboured breathing, and repeated episodes when breathing is interrupted by gasping and snorting.
OSA affects between four and 10 per cent of people in the UK. In the US, around 22 million are affected.
During an episode, the lack of oxygen triggers a sufferer’s brain to pull them out of deep sleep so their airways reopen.
These repeated sleep interruptions can make the person very tired, with them often being unaware of what the problem is.
Risks for OSA include:
- Being overweight – excess body fat increases the bulk of soft tissues in the neck
- Being male
- Being 40 or over
- Having a large neck
- Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
- Being in the menopause – hormonal changes cause the throat muscles to relax
Treatment includes lifestyle changes, such as loosing weight, if necessary, and avoiding alcohol.
In addition, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices prevent the airway closing by delivering a continuous supply of compressed air through a mask.
A mandibular advancement device (MAD) can also be used, which is like a gum-shield that holds the jaw and tongue forward to increase the space at the back of the throat.
Untreated, OSA increases a person’s risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart attacks and type 2 diabetes.
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