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Snoring Could Cause Heart Problems March 12, 2010

For more information, call Erica C. Cline at 706/828-2225.

Snoring could cause more problems than you think

AUGUSTA, GA (March 12, 2010) If you snore nightly, you’re probably doing more than just annoying your spouse.

You also could be endangering your health.

Snoring often is a sign of sleep apnea, when a person has repeated bouts of reduced breathing or completely stops breathing while sleeping. While it would seem obvious that this would disturb your sleep and make you extremely tired during the day, sleep apnea also is becoming recognized as a cardiovascular risk.

“Sleep apnea is a fairly common disease,” said Bashir Chaudhary, M.D., a sleep medicine specialist who is director of University Hospital’s Sleep Center, noting that about 16 percent of the adult American population suffers from the disorder. But not everyone even knows they have a problem. Dr. Chaudhary noted that only a small percentage of sufferers know they have the condition.

“If snoring does not bother your spouse, you may not know you have a problem,” he said. “Also, we used to think everybody with sleep apnea is sleepy. Now we know about half of the people who have sleep apnea are not sleepy during the day. They just don’t know.”

This is problematic because according to a recent study, people with even minimal obstructive sleep apnea can be at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

About one third of those with hypertension – one of leading causes of heart disease – also have sleep apnea. Dr. Chaudhary said the reason is a vicious cycle that is created throughout the night for those with sleep apnea.

“When we stop breathing, the body wakes up; all of a sudden it is as if you are under assault,” he said. “During the nighttime, our adrenaline-type of hormones should be going down; we should be relaxed. But if you are stopping breathing, those hormones will go up. If it happens one time, that is fine, but when it happens 400 times…”

Dr. Chaudhary said he has seen people during sleep studies that stop breathing more than 100 times an hour – about 1-2 times per minute – creating a dangerous situation for the sleeper.

The continuous rise and fall of hormones keeps a person’s blood pressure from returning to normal as the body’s defense system reacts unnecessarily.

“So what does it do to the blood pressure? It’s going to increase because the body wants action,” Dr. Chaudhary said. “That’s one of the reasons that heart-related problems are going to be more common because those hormone levels are going to be high.

“If you look at those people who have severe hypertension that is difficult to control, about 70 to 80 percent of them have sleep apnea.”

Sleep studies conducted in Dr. Chaudhary’s office and at University Hospital’s Sleep Center can help those who think they might have sleep apnea by diagnosing the problem and developing a plan of treatment, which can include stopping smoking, losing weight and using an air-pressurized mask (CPAP) to assist breathing during the night.

Dr. Chaudhary said his patients have been amazed how they feel after they start treatments for sleep apnea, saying most had no idea just how bad they really felt.

“They sleep better during the night, and when they wake up in the morning they will be rested – this is the immediate effect,” he said. “But the major benefit over the long period is incidents of higher blood pressure are going down, incidents of heart attacks are going down and incidents of stroke are going down.”

For more information about sleep apnea, call University’s ASK-A-NURSE at 706/737-8423 or toll free at 800/476-7378.

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