Snoring Your Way to Heart Disease
My father used to snore something awful. Just listening to the “symphony of sounds” that would come from his nose and mouth and the stops and starts in his breathing rhythm would send me and my brothers rolling on the floor in side-splitting laughter.
Sadly, come to find out, some cases of snoring are no laughing matter. Many people who are dismissed simply as loud snorers are in fact suffering from sleep apnea, a situation where the snorer experiences inadequate oxygen intake while they’re asleep*.
Untreated sleep apnea creates a condition known as oxidative stress within the body. This oxidative stress, in turn, significantly increases the risk of heart disease (20x greater), stroke (10x greater), sudden death, and an overall decrease in your longevity!
Part of the reason this oxidative stress is so stressful on the body’s cardiovascular system is because it sets the stage for high blood pressure. It does this by increasing both the thickness of the vascular walls (narrowing your arteries) and the tone/contraction of your vessels, which further impedes blood flow. When blood vessels become narrowed, the heart must pump its blood against a higher pressure gradient, giving rise to high blood pressure.
In 2006 the American Heart Association released a long-term study which found that 45% of the study’s participants who neglected to treat their moderate-to-severe sleep apnea suffered a significant cardiovascular incident (heart attack or stroke) within the next 10-12 years!
Evaluation for sleep apnea is best performed in a reputable sleep center, by a physician who is a Board Certified Sleep Specialist (no take home devices, please—they are wholly inadequate). If it is determined that you do indeed have sleep apnea, please follow through with your doctor’s recommendations—the quality and quantity of your life is at stake.
I truly wish I had understood the potential seriousness of snoring and its link to sleep apnea earlier. My father died at the age of 59 from a sudden heart attack.
*For more information on the subject of sleep apnea and its treatment please refer to my book, Sleep Well Again.