Is your husband snoring more than usual? Has it gotten so bad that it wakes you up at night? This could be more than a mere annoyance – although you are probably pretty angry in the morning because you're so tired. Snoring is common symptom of obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder that ultimately leads to a life-threatening disease, according to a new study.
Patients with apnea may literally stop breathing dozens of times a night when their airway collapses during sleep. Light snoring isn't as much of a warning sign as the kind of very loud and heavy snoring that wakes up a partner. What those gurgling sounds really indicate is that the snorer is struggling to breathe. A breathing interruption can cause the level of blood oxygen to drop and that rouses the sleeper with a burst of adrenaline that increases blood pressure.
The new study, in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, found that apnea raised the risk of heart failure for middle-aged and older men and significantly raised the risk of coronary heart disease in men up to age 70. The researchers found that men with the most severe apnea had a 58 percent high risk of developing heart failure than men who didn't have apnea. Men 40 to 70 with the most severe apnea also had a 68 percent greater risk of having coronary heart disease.
These are serious numbers – and they should prompt anyone with apnea or the partner of an apnea sufferer to make an appointment with the doctor. Apnea is treatable. The most common therapy is called continuous positive airway pressure, in which a machine forces air into the airways. For more on apnea treatment, click here.