Monday, January 28, 2013

Snoring More of a Heart Disease Risk than Obesity

Who would think that something as benign (and annoying) as snoring could have life-threatening repercussions?  A new study from Henry Ford Hospital warns that snoring puts patients at more risk of heart disease than obesity, high cholesterol and smoking.   The underline message of the study for physicians was to take note in their cardiology EMR and ask patients (or their significant others) about their sleep habits.

Conducted by Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, the research studied the medical records of 913 patients on their snoring habits who were evaluated by the hospital’s sleep center from December, 2006 to January, 2012.  Out of the 913, 54 patients completed the researchers’ snoring study and underwent a carotid artery duplex ultrasound, measuring the intima-media thickness of the arteries to detect and monitor the progression of atherosclerosis.  Since none of the patients had obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), research results led the study authors, Drs. Robert Deeb, M.D. and Kathleen Yeremchuk, M.D., to believe that the risk of cardiovascular disease caused by snoring is a prelude to OSA, contrary to previous belief that OSA leads to the risk of cardiovascular disease.

When given the carotid artery ultrasound, snoring patients were found to have greater intima-media thickness than non-snorers.  The swelling in artery wall thickness, theorized the researchers, was most likely caused by trauma from the vibration in the throat from snoring.  As a message to cardiologists to annotate the occurrence of snoring in their cardiology EMR, the authors of the study warn that the noisy sleep habit should no longer be shrugged off.   “Snoring is generally regarded as a cosmetic issue by health insurance, requiring significant out-of-pocket expenses by patients. We’re hoping to change that thinking so patients can get the early treatment they need, before more serious health issues arise,” says Dr. Deeb.

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