Nightly News   |  January 26, 2013

Snoring could indicate heart disease

For the first time, doctors say that snoring alone may be an indicator of heart disease – likening it to other well-known risk factors such as sleep apnea, obesity, smoking and high cholesterol. NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman reports.

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>>> we're back with a wake up call for those affected by a common problem. new research suggests that snoring may indicate a much more serious medical issue. we get details on that tonight from nbc's chief medical editor dr. nancy snyderman .

>> are you kidding me?

>> reporter: it's fodder for jokes in movies and on tv and can be a bedroom annoyance.

>> if i don't fall asleep before him i'm not going to fall asleep.

>> i give him a shove. you need to wake him up or turn him over or something just so that you can sleep.

>> reporter: new research shows snoring should not be ignored and in fact may be an indicator of cardiac disease , the number one killer in america. for the first time doctors say snoring alone may be an early sign of heart disease . likening it to other well known risk factors like sleep apnea , obesity, smoking, and high cholesterol .

>> we wanted to bring to light the fact that snoring may in fact lead to adverse health.

>> reporter: researchers at the henry ford hospital and university of nebraska measured the thickness of the carotid artery the major blood vessel in the head and neck and found those who snored regardless of other risk factors for heart disease had significantly greater thickening the blood vessels and that thickening is associated with an increased risk of heart disease or stroke.

>> snoring in terms of risk factors was number one independent of the other risk factors . and also was more likely to lead to that thickening than the other, quote, traditional risk factors .

>> reporter: snoring is a tell tale sign that a person's airway is partially blocked. experts say the vibrations and strains that occur in the airway can also put pressure on blood vessels in the head and neck. over time , those critical blood vessels narrow, making it harder to pump blood into the head and brain and putting in turn undue stress on the heart. so, for all of you snorers out there --

>> looks like an elephant, like a buzz saw .

>> the earthquake we had a few years ago.

>> reporter: -- consider this a wake up call . snoring is not just a joke. it is now a reason to go see the doctor. dr. nancy snyderman , nbc news, new york.