Many of us have always viewed snoring as nothing more than a nuisance, an irritating habit that has no consequence to our health. On the other hand, heart disease is a big, life-threatening issue with a high mortality rate. Do you know that snoring and heart disease are closely linked? Well, they are.
Snoring is characterized by a snorting or grunting sound when breathing during sleep. Various studies conducted by the National Sleep Foundation indicate that about 90 million people in the United States are snorers.
Snoring might become more dangerous as you age, and it can also lead to heart disease. Normal breathing during sleep facilitates recovery of the body, restoration of energy, and balancing various body processes. Snoring is mainly characterized by obstructed breathing which can be detrimental to internal organs such as the heart and brain.
If you suffer from OSA, it can be challenging to keep the upper airway open during sleep. When the airflow is disrupted, the body releases stress hormones, which over time can lead to heart disease.
You need to see a doctor for proper and timely diagnoses if you are worried that your snoring is severe and dangerous enough to cause;
- Cardiac disorders such as heart attacks,
- Pre-stroke conditions,
- Obesity, etc.
The link between snoring and heart disease
While sleep apnea is not a direct cause of heart disease, there is a link. Sleep apnea puts you at risk of developing hypertension or high blood pressure. Also, many people with sleep apnea mostly have co-existing diseases, making it harder to show a close link between sleep apnea and heart disease.
According to studies, if you live with sleep apnea and high blood pressure, treating sleep apnea can help reduce your blood pressure. Such findings show a possible link between hypertension and sleep apnea. If hypertension is left untreated for long, it can cause heart disease and stroke.
OSA has a close relationship with obesity which is a risk factor for heart disease. Being obese is a risk factor for sleep apnea, and the sleep deprivation caused by sleep apnea can trigger obesity in the long run. Excess weight gain causes fat accumulation around the neck area, which puts pressure on the throat muscles that keep the airway open, causing them to relax too much and worsening snoring and sleep apnea.
To further understand the relationship between snoring and heart disease and how snoring affects your heart, we must understand human physiology.
The nose and mouth are the doors to oxygen. The oxygen we breathe is absorbed into the blood and transmitted all over the body. Snoring occurs in the upper airways at the start of a respiratory cycle, impacting the rest of the phases. Depriving the heart of enough oxygen can cause it to narrow your vessels to increase blood flow and get more oxygen, resulting in too much pressure on vessels. This excess pressure fluctuation can cause chronic hypertension or even heart attack.
Does snoring cause heart attacks?
A snore can be an alarm that all is not well in your body. It can be a symptom of heart disease, hypertension, stroke, heart attack, or other severe issues like diabetes and obesity.
Blood supplies oxygen to all the other body parts, including the brain, which produces hormones that facilitates the normal flow of many body processes, such as blood pressure, the regularity of heartbeats, etc.
Lack of oxygen intake causes narrowing of vessels. Narrowed blood vessels can obstruct blood flow to the heart. This can cause a blood clot which can cause a heart attack. This clot can break away from the vessel, get into the blood flow, travel to the heart, block one of the channels, and possibly cause death.
Who’s at risk?
Some conditions can put you at a higher risk of getting of snoring and sleep apnea and subsequently heart disease. These include;
Obesity increases your risk for snoring and OSA as fat deposits around the upper airway can cause them to lose tone over time and cause obstructed breathing.
Also, having a thicker neck, narrow throat, or enlarged tonsils or adenoids may put you more at risk.
Men naturally have narrower air passages, which causes air to vibrate and cause a snoring sound as it flows through the air passage.
Old age also makes you more prone to snoring and sleep apnea.
If you have a family history of sleep apnea, smokers, or drinkers, you are more at risk of snoring and sleep apnea.
Treating snoring to prevent heart disease
Seeking treatment for your snoring is vital, especially if you suspect it could be a sign of sleep apnea can significantly reduce your risk of getting heart disease.
Your doctor will recommend the appropriate treatment depending on the intensity of your snoring. If your snoring is mild, making some lifestyle changes can be all you need. Simple lifestyle changes you can make include;
- Getting regular physical activity,
- Observing sleep hygiene,
- Avoiding alcohol consumption too close to bedtime,
- Avoiding caffeine before bed, etc.
Trying therapies such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) can help remedy more severe snoring and sleep apnea cases. CPAP is a therapy in which a machine delivers constant air pressure through a mask into the nose or mouth.
Use of anti-snoring devices is also a recommend option to treat snoring.
So, does snoring really cause heart disease? Specialists do not have a definite yes or no to this question. It is, however, clear that snoring and heart problems are linked.
Snoring isn’t always a symptom of heart problems, and it isn’t the direct cause of heart problems. Heart disorders are usually accompanied by other diseases, making it difficult to follow the exact connections between these health issues.
Obstructed breathing can harm your health in numerous ways. If you are concerned that your snoring could cause heart disease start monitoring your breathing patterns during sleep and seek professional medical help.