THURSDAY, Sept. 1, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- The snoring and constant awakenings of severe sleep apnea could provide an early indication of heart disease, researchers report.
Brazilian researchers detected early hardening of the arteries in 42- to 44-year-old patients with severe obstructive sleep apnea, despite the absence of overt signs of cardiovascular disease.
People with obstructive sleep apnea repeatedly stop breathing in their sleep as a result of partial or complete blockage of the upper airway.
The vascular abnormalities detected by researchers correlated significantly with the severity of the patient's sleep apnea, noted lead researcher Dr. Luciano F. Drager of the Heart Institute at the University of Sao Paulo Medical School.
Although sleep apnea is believed to contribute to heart disease, no one yet has explained that connection, the researchers say.
They reported their findings in the September issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about atherosclerosis.