New research discovered that heavy snoring is an independent risk factor for early carotid atherosclerosis, which can develop to be associated to stroke.

“Heavy snorers may be at risk for the development of carotid atherosclerosis, which is the leading cause of stroke. Heavy snorers … should have a review of all their risk factors for vascular disease,” says lead author Sharon Lee, associate professor at Westmead Hospital in Australia.

The study of 110 adults between 45 and 80 years of age is the first to objectively measure and quantify snoring to investigate the association between snoring and carotid atherosclerosis. Each participant underwent polysomnography and ultrasound to quantify snoring, atherosclerosis, and cardiovascular risk assessment. A snoring index and snoring sleep time were used to categorize participants as mild snorers, moderate snorers, and heavy snorers.

Sixty-four percent of heavy snorers had carotid atherosclerosis while only 20% of mild snorers and 32% of moderate snorers experienced carotid atherosclerosis.

There are no studies on whether a reduction in snoring can reverse damage to the carotid arteries.

The full study can be found in the Sept 1 issue of the journal SLEEP.