Studies warn that young people who snore at night have a significantly higher risk of developing stroke and heart disease as they get older.
Doctors say snoring in adults under the age of 50 should be treated as a “red flag.” The study found that young people who snore were 60% more likely, five times more likely, to have a stroke in middle age. You are more likely to develop heart rhythm disorders.
The researchers presented their findings at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Amsterdam.
They examined data from 766,000 US adults ages 20 to 50. This included 7,500 adults with obstructive sleep apnea, which prevents normal breathing during sleep. This can cause loud snoring and sleep interruptions as the patient wakes up with difficulty breathing.
Over a 10-year follow-up period, the study found that people with sleep apnea were 60 percent more likely to have a stroke than those who did not snore frequently.
They were also five times more likely to develop atrial fibrillation, a heart condition that causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate. Symptoms of atrial fibrillation include palpitations, dizziness, and shortness of breath.
Lead author Sanjiv Narayan of Stanford University said:
“Nobody had ever really shown how big the risk of heart disease was, and that really surprised us.”
He added that the study is aimed at “relatively young people” who may not be aware that they are at risk.
“If you have a stroke, young families will be devastated. It can take them out of the workplace. It will destroy their lives for the next 40 years.”
The researchers found that GPs routinely asked patients if they were snoring, highlighting whether it was a heart health “red flag” that needed additional testing or medication. I am proposing that it should.
Obstructive sleep apnea is fairly common, estimated to affect 1.5 million adults in the UK. However, according to the British Lung Foundation, up to 85 percent of patients go undiagnosed and untreated.
Older, overweight men are especially prone to sleep apnea. When normal breathing is interrupted, blood oxygen levels can drop, putting strain on the heart and blood vessels.
Professor Narayan explained: “If you can’t breathe, the pressure in your lungs builds up, and you eventually wake up gasping for breath. This puts a pressure load on your heart, which can cause the heart chambers to dilate and trigger atrial fibrillation.” .
“Another theory is that oxygen levels in the blood drop for tens of seconds, which can put stress on the heart.”
Sleep apnea can be treated with a CPAP machine, a device that pumps air into a mask that the patient wears over his mouth and nose while he sleeps.
The NHS also recommends lifestyle changes that can improve symptoms, such as losing weight and exercising regularly if people are overweight. Sleeping on your side can also help reduce sleep apnea.