Nov. 29 (UPI) -- Snoring and obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, could cause early cardiac impairment in women, a study says.
New findings presented at the Radiological Society of North America's annual meeting show that the people studied with OSA and snoring problems also had a thickened left ventricular mass, causing their heart's main chamber to work harder.
OSA, the most prevalent form of sleep apnea, occurs when a person's throat muscles relax during sleep, blocking their airway. While its most common symptom is loud snoring, gasping for air during sleep, waking with a dry mouth, morning headache and irritability are also markers of the condition.
The researchers found the risk is greater in women than men, and also that OSA may be among a large number of people who snore.
"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 greater risk for cardiac involvement," Adrian Curta, a radiology resident at Munich University Hospital in Germany, said in a press release. "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."
OSA can lead to heart problems, along with daytime fatigue and sleepiness, medications and surgery complications.
Several remedies for OSA include weight loss for overweight people, along with surgical procedures and machines like CPAP machines that can open a person's upper airways during sleep.
Curta recommends that people who snore get diagnosed and, if necessary, treated for OSA.
"I would encourage people who snore to ask their partner to observe them and look for phases during sleep when they stop breathing for a short while and then gasp for air," Curta said. "If unsure, they can spend the night at a sleep lab where breathing is constantly monitored during sleep and even slight alterations can be recorded."