It's fodder for jokes in movies --
And can be a bedroom annoyance...
But new research shows snoring should not be ignored and may in fact 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.
Researchers at the Henry Ford hospital and university of Nebraska measured the thickness of the carotid artery - the major blood vessel in the head & neck. They found those who snored -- regardless of other risk factors for heart disease -- had "significantly greater" thickening of those blood vessels.
And that thickening is associated with an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.
Snoring is a telltale sign that a person's airway is being partially blocked. Experts say the vibrations and strain that occur in the airway, can also put pressure on blood vessels in the head and neck.
Nancy: over time, those critical blood vessels narrow, making it harder to pump blood into the head and brain. And that in turn, puts undue stress on the heart.
So for all you snorers out there, consider this research a wake-up call. Snoring is not just a joke -- it's now a reason to go see the doctor.
Doctor Nancy Snyderman, NBC news, New York.