According to a new study, women might be at a higher risk for heart problems related to snoring and sleep apnea. They may also start to develop symptoms at a younger age. Researchers in the study also found that sleep apnea is probably greatly underdiagnosed among snorers.

Women's Hearts Hurt by Sleep Apnea

Women at Elevated Risk

For this study, researchers used a British health database of people receiving a cardiac MRI. They looked at records from nearly 5000 participants, including 118 who had been diagnosed with sleep apnea and 1886 self-reported snorers. About 400 people in the database were considered ineligible for the study. Cardiac MRIs can analyze the structure of the heart as well as its function. Researchers looked at both to see how sleep apnea affected the heart.

They found that people with sleep apnea tended to develop a mass on the left ventricle of the heart, which interferes with heart function. The left ventricle pumps blood out of the heart into the body. Less commonly, people with sleep apnea may develop a mass on the right ventricle. People with sleep apnea also had impaired heart function, as shown by a reduced ejection fraction. Ejection fraction is the amount of blood the heart is able to pump out with each beat.

Researchers found that women with sleep apnea had more enlargement of the left ventricle. They even saw this among women who were self-reported snorers but hadn’t been diagnosed with sleep apnea. The additional heart mass also affected women’s heart function: they had a lower ejection fraction than men in the study.

This study confirms earlier research that showed sleep deprivation (not necessarily related to sleep apnea) is harder on women’s hearts.

Badly Underdiagnosed

Another insight from this study is that sleep apnea is probably badly underdiagnosed among people with snoring. The heart analysis showed that many people with self-reported snoring actually had elevated heart mass in either the left or right ventricle. Many, especially women, had reduced heart function that was likely related to sleep apnea.

As a result, researchers concluded that sleep apnea was badly underdiagnosed among people with snoring. They didn’t give an estimate of how many people had undiagnosed sleep apnea. In this population, just 2.4% of those getting a cardiac MRI had been diagnosed with sleep apnea. Since studies show that up to 83% of people with heart disease  have sleep apnea, this could mean that perhaps 97% of snorers with sleep apnea are undiagnosed!

Sleep Apnea Diagnosis Can Protect Your Heart

The findings from this study make it clear: people with sleep apnea need to treat the condition or else they will suffer damage to their heart and reduced heart function. Eventually, this will likely lead to heart failure.

The study also shows that people with snoring need to realize they likely have sleep apnea. This means that they should actively pursue a sleep test to get a positive diagnosis for sleep apnea. This means they can begin treatment to reduce the impact of the condition on their overall health.

If you are in Denver and snore, we can help you take a sleep test that will show if you have sleep apnea. In addition, we can help you get comfortable, convenient sleep apnea treatment if you are diagnosed with the condition.

To learn more about sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment, please call (303) 691-0267 for an appointment with a Denver sleep dentist at The TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado.