People have a tendency to think about snoring as a sound that’s just a nuisance. If we do think about snoring as a risk, it’s likely because of its connection to sleep apnea. If your sleep test shows you don’t have apneas, you might think there’s no health concerns.
But that’s not true: snoring itself can be dangerous, and a new study shows how snoring is associated to carotid artery damage that can lead to stroke.
Carotid Arteries and Stroke
The carotid arteries are the large arteries in your neck that carry blood to the brain. This makes them the most likely place for an ischemic stroke to start. An ischemic stroke is when debris gets lodged in the narrow blood vessels of the brain, cutting off blood supply.
Most often, the debris that causes these strokes is dislodged plaque from the arteries. Plaque accumulates in the arteries (partly due to oral bacteria), causing changes to the arteries. These changes weaken the arteries and make it more likely for the plaque to break off. The condition of plaque accumulation and arterial changes is known as atherosclerosis. Informally, we call this “hardened arteries.”
Dangerous Features Linked to Snoring
We can chart the changes to your arteries using MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). This is a commonly recommended procedure for people who are considered to be at risk for stroke. In this study, researchers asked 133 people getting this procedure about their snoring habits. Of the 61 responses, they found that 32 reported that they snored. Cross-referencing the snorers with their medical records, they found that snoring was linked to high-risk damage to the carotid arteries.
Snorers were more than 4 times as likely to experience a thin or ruptured fibrous cap. When plaque accumulates in the artery, it changes the inner layer of the artery, making it more fibrous with fewer healthy cells. This is called the fibrous cap. If this thins or ruptures, the plaque is more likely to break off.
Snorers are also more than 8 times as likely to have an intraplaque hemorrhage than nonsnorers. When plaque gets large and hangs around for a long time in the artery, blood vessels can actually grow into the plaque itself. When these tiny blood vessels rupture, the bleeding can cause plaque to break apart and some of it travels to the brain.
Simple Snoring Increases Stroke Risk
Looking at the anatomy of plaque buildup shows us that snoring can have complex, damaging effects on your body. It’s not just a noise: it’s a traumatic vibration that causes serious damage that can be dangerous or deadly.
If you are a snorer looking for comfortable, convenient treatment in the San Jose area, we can help. Please call (408) 354-5600 today for an appointment with sleep dentist Dr. Nancy Nehawandian at Top Down Dental in Los Gatos.