Reporting Dr. Maria Simbra
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Many people snore. Many people have heart attacks. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh say they have found a connection between the two conditions.
A study from Pitt shows that loud snorers are more likely to develop factors that put them at risk for a heart attack.
“People often report in primary care offices that they or their spouse complains of loud snoring, that they have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. And we as sleep researchers were interested in how this broad array of sleep symptoms that are often reported might relate to later cardiovascular risk,” lead research author Wendy Troxel of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine said.
Previous research has looked at the link between heart disease and obstructive sleep apnea, a problem where excess tissue blocks the airway during sleep. But this study looked purely at snoring.
“There are some people with loud snoring who don’t have obstructive sleep apnea,” Troxel continued.
In Troxel’s government-funded study, more that 800 relatively healthy people ages 45 to 78 were followed for three years. High blood sugar and low levels of good cholesterol, both risk factors for heart disease, were twice as likely to present in the participants who reported frequent, loud snoring.
In addition to snorers, participants who had trouble falling asleep and had unrefreshing sleep were also at increased risk for metabolic syndrome, when additional heart disease risk factors like obesity, high blood pressure, and high levels of triglyceride fats are present.
“Sleep complaints aren’t just benign annoyances but something that can really foretell important health consequences,” Troxel stressed, “and they should really be discussed with [medical] providers and referred for further treatment if necessary.”
The research conducted at Pitt was an observational study. Patients were not treated to see whether decreasing snoring could lower the risk of heart disease. Rather, the study shows that snorers should pay particular attention to their heart disease risk factors.