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What Snoring Does to Your Heart Health

Snoring is often considered an innocent, if annoying, nighttime habit. Still, it can sometimes indicate a severe health problem like sleep apnea. This sleep problem, in which breathing repeatedly stops at night, could considerably affect the heart's health.

When you snore, what happens?

When you snore, your airways get partly blocked, which means less oxygen gets to your lungs. If the amount of oxygen in your blood drops, your brain often wakes you up to tell you to take a big breath. These breaks can happen hundreds of times a night. When they do, stress hormones like cortisone and adrenaline tend to rise, which can cause heart failure, high blood pressure, and even heart attacks.

What do snoring, sleep apnea, and heart health do with each other?

Sleep apnea has two primary forms: obstructive (OSA) and central (CSA). OSA is the most common type. It happens when the throat closes during sleep because the muscles that support the upper airways loosen up. CSA, on the other hand, is caused by problems with the way the brain sends signals. These problems make breathing hard, so the diaphragm stops tightening and expanding.

Snoring is a familiar sign of OSA, but it can also happen with CSA, though it happens less often. When sleep apnea makes you snore, being jolted awake during sleep can cause stress levels to rise. Over time, this can increase the chance of having a heart attack, though it happens less often. When sleep apnea makes you snore, being jolted awake during sleep can cause stress levels to rise. Over time, this can increase the chance of having a heart attack. Snoring for a long time can also cause health problems like type 2 diabetes, heart failure, high blood pressure, and stroke.

Identifying the signs

The most obvious sign of sleep apnea is loud snoring, but other symptoms include gasping, snorting, or choking during sleep; being surprised by your snoring when you wake up; waking up with a headache or dry mouth in the morning; and being very tired during the day. If you or your partner have these signs, you should immediately see a doctor.

How to Know When to See a Doctor

If you or your partner notice sleep apnea signs like snoring that doesn't go away, you need to see a doctor. Doctors can do tests like a CT scan, echocardiogram, or stress test for heart failure. You may also be sent to a sleep expert for more testing. This expert may do polysomnography, a test that takes place overnight and checks your breathing, movement, and heart function.

Key Takeaways

Snoring is more than just an annoyance at night; it could indicate sleep apnea and put you at risk for heart disease. Contact your primary care doctor or a sleep expert if you or your partner snore loudly. Having good sleep habits, living a healthy life, and keeping your weight in check can also help stop snoring and lower your risk of heart disease.

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