Though a significantly greater proportion of men are snorers, research presented Nov. 29 at the Radiological Society of North America’s annual meeting in Chicago suggests women who snore or experience obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are at a greater risk for early cardiac dysfunction than their male counterparts.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, roughly 40 percent of adult men and 24 percent of adult women snore, and the National Sleep Foundation estimates half of those who snore loudly have OSA. OSA is common, first author Adrian Curta, MD, and colleagues said, but it can also raise a person’s risk for left and right ventricular dysfunction.
In an effort to assess the relationship between OSA and cardiac function in otherwise healthy adults, Curta and co-authors studied data from 4,877 U.K. Biobank participants, all of whom had undergone cardiac MRI and self-reported their snoring habits. Of the pool, 118 patients had been previously diagnosed with OSA, 1,886 patients self-reported snoring and 2,477 said they didn’t snore or have any history of OSA.
“Our analysis showed that in both genders of the OSA and snoring groups there was an increase in left ventricular mass, meaning that the walls of the heart’s main pumping chamber are enlarged, making the heart work harder,” Curta said in a release. “We also found that men showed an increase in the ejection fraction of both ventricles.”
When comparing women and men who snored to those who didn’t, Curta said his team noticed a stark difference in left ventricular mass between genders. The change in LV mass in women was more significant, suggesting some self-reported snorers might actually have undiagnosed OSA.
“We found that the cardiac parameters in women appear to be more easily affected by the disease and that women who snore or have OSA might be at a greater risk for cardiac involvement,” Curta said. “We also found that the prevalence of diagnosed OSA in the study group was extremely low. Together with the alterations in cardiac function in the snoring group, it leads us to believe that OSA may be grossly underdiagnosed.”
He said the transition from snoring to OSA likely involves left ventricular hypertrophy, an independent predictor for increased adverse events and in-hospital mortality for many patients. He encouraged those who snore to get screened for OSA or, if they’re in a pinch, ask their partner to observe their sleep patterns for a night.