This Common Sleep Issue Could Be a Warning Sign of Heart Disease, According to Cardiologists

Woman snoring in bed

Heart disease has been the number one cause of death in the U.S. for a century. Yet, a Harris Poll survey for the American Heart Association found that 51% of Americans didn't know this stat. That's more than half of Americans, and it's a problem.

"Heart disease can be significantly reduced if we are able to prevent risk factors," says Dr. Sharan Sharma, MD, a cardiologist with Intermountain Health.

Getting more sleep is one of the first things cardiologists will recommend for risk reduction. Unlike genetics, it's something we can control.

However, a common issue that happens while you sleep may be a red flag that you're at a higher risk for heart disease. The good news is that there are treatments for it—here's everything you need to know.

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The Sleep Issue That Could Be a Heart Disease Warning Sign

Snoring isn't just an annoyance to any applicable bed partner (or the person three doors down).

"Snoring can be a sign of underlying sleep apnea," Dr. Sharma explains. "We have now known that sleep apnea is associated with various heart diseases such as atrial fibrillation, hypertension and heart failure."

You may have heard of sleep apnea. But what does it actually mean?

A 2024 study of more than 12,000 people published in Nature found that regular snoring upped a person's risk for uncontrolled high blood pressure.

"An apnea is the complete absence of airflow for at least 10 seconds," says Dr. Sanjay Rajagopalan, MD, the director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute and the School of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University.

Snoring could also be a sign of a less severe decrease in airflow known as a "hypopnea" that also lasts 10 or more seconds, Dr. Rajagopalan explains. Both have consequences that can be harmful to the heart.

"This interruption increases the stress, or fight-and-flight hormones, cortisone and adrenaline," says Dr. Leonard Pianko, MD, an Aventura cardiologist. "This hormonal surge increases blood pressure and heart rate and can put an ongoing strain on your cardiovascular system, causing angina or a heart attack."

That's not the only thing it does. "In addition to heart disease, snoring interrupts sleep, which may lead to daytime drowsiness, difficulty concentrating and irritability," Dr. Pianko continues.

Plus, those interruptions could up heart disease risks. For instance, a 2023 study in Hypertension found that sleep irregularity is linked to higher odds of elevated blood pressure.

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Is Snoring Always a Sign of Heart Disease?

You were told you snored last night. Should you lose sleep over that fact tonight? No. Notably, Dr. Sharma says snoring doesn't always indicate sleep apnea or an increased risk for heart disease.

"There are some other causes of snoring besides sleep apnea," Dr. Sharma says. "Nasal congestion, deviated nasal septum and alcohol consumption are some other common causes."

Dr. Rajagopalan advises people to pay particular concern to snoring as it relates to heart disease if it's also associated with:

  • Witnessed breathing pauses during sleep

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Morning headaches

  • Sore throat upon awakening

  • Restless sleep

  • Gasping or choking at night

  • High blood pressure

  • Snoring is so loud it's disrupting your partner's sleep

Dr. Sharma says if you want to get to the root of your snoring, it's best to get enrolled in a sleep study.

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How to Reduce Sleep Apnea Risk

Dr. Pianko says it's possible to lower your odds of sleep apnea, and many tips are similar to top-line advice to reduce heart disease chances. These tips include:

  • Regular physical exercise

  • Maintaining a healthy weight

  • Quit smoking

  • Limit alcohol

If you do have sleep apnea, treatment is available. "Sleep apnea is treated with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask," Dr. Pianko says. "To treat sleep apnea, pressurized air has to travel from the CPAP machine through a hose and a mask and into the upper airway to keep the airways open."

Other Heart Disease Risk Factors to Be Aware Of

Don't snore? That's a good sign. However, Dr. Pianko reminds people that there are other red flags that you may be at an increased risk for heart disease.

"Signs of heart disease include an irregular or rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, unusual fatigue or swelling in your legs or ankles," he says.

If you're concerned about your heart health, it's better to be safe than sorry. "The best way to protect yourself is to schedule an appointment with a cardiologist if you have a family history of cardiac disease or experience symptoms at any age," Dr. Pianko explains.

Next up: 'I'm a Trainer, and These Are the 4 Exercises I Swear By for Getting Rid of Belly Fat'


  • More than half of U.S. adults don’t know heart disease is leading cause of death, despite 100-year reign. American Heart Association.

  • Dr. Sharan Sharma, MD, a cardiologist with Intermountain Health

  • Regular snoring is associated with uncontrolled hypertension. Nature.

  • Dr. Sanjay Rajagopalan, MD, the director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute and the School of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University

  • Dr. Leonard Pianko, MD, an Aventura cardiologist

  • Sleep Irregularity Is Associated With Hypertension: Findings From Over 2 Million Nights With a Large Global Population Sample. Hypertension.