Women who snore have a higher risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke than men do, a new study says. The research, presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, suggests that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is largely underdiagnosed among snorers.

OSA, a common but dangerous sleep disorder, happens when the throat muscles intermittently relax and block the airway while a person sleeps.

Its common symptoms include gasping for air during sleep, waking with a dry mouth, morning headache and irritability and loud snoring. The complications under this condition may consist of daytime fatigue, sleepiness, complications with medications and surgery, and cardiovascular problems.

The researchers say OSA causes an increased risk for left ventricular and more rarely, right ventricular dysfunction in the heart, causing cardiac risks. The increase in left ventricular mass means that the walls of the heart’s main pumping chamber are enlarged making the heart work harder.

The findings illustrate that the cardiac changes in the self-reported snorers point to earlier impairment and might be an indication of undiagnosed OSA.

It is recommended that people who snore be screened for OSA and those with OSA be treated appropriately. Also, the treatment is dependent on the cause of an individual’s OSA, for example, weight loss can often improve OSA in overweight individuals.