Obstructive Sleep Apnea Can Lead to Cardiac Abnormalities, Which Are More Pronounced in Women

By Kurtis Chien-Young

Obstructive sleep apnea is a disease characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. It occurs when the throat relaxes and expands, blocking the airways and preventing air flow into the lungs temporarily. The blockage is characterized by loud snoring and gasps for air, and people who experience it often wake up with dryness around the mouth, as well as headaches and fatigue during the day.

Obstructive sleep apnea also increases the risk for ventricular abnormalities in the heart, and a recent analysis of participants who volunteered at the UK Biobank found that snoring was correlated with increased growth of the left ventricle of the heart. This increase in mass requires the heart to pump harder in order to generate the same cardiac output as before. The researchers also discovered that, among snorers, women had significantly greater left ventricular masses, possibly suggesting that women experience obstructive sleep apnea differently and could be more affected by it.

Dr. Curta, one of the researchers involved in the study, noted that obstructive sleep apnea was underdiagnosed among the research participants, and recommended snorers to go see their physicians for screening. If diagnosed, treatment options include surgery to remove some obstructing tissue, breathing machines that apply constant pressure to prevent obstruction, and weight loss, if applicable.

 

Radiological Society of North America. "Snoring poses greater cardiac risk to women." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 November 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181129084708.htm>.