December 6, 2022

Sleep may be as important to heart health as diet and physical activity, research finds

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(CNN) — If you want to keep your heart healthy, add a good night’s rest to your to-do list, according to a recommendation from a new study.

Heart disease is leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In the country one person dies of cardiovascular disease every 34 seconds.

In June 2022, the American Heart Association added sleep duration to its cardiovascular health checklist, now called “The eight essential points of life“. These science-based guidelines were created to help all Americans improve their heart health.

The eight points:

  • Give up smoking
  • Eat better
  • stay active
  • control your weight
  • control your blood pressure
  • control cholesterol
  • lower blood sugar
  • Sleep healthy.

Some of the research behind the change was published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Research from scientists at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health shows that cardiovascular health guidelines are more effective at predicting a person’s risk of heart disease if they include sleep.

The researchers looked at the sleep records of 2,000 middle-aged and older adults in an ongoing US study of cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular disease risk factors called the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA).

The participants were included in a detailed sleep investigation. They completed sleep surveys, wore a device that measured their sleep for seven days, and did an overnight study in which the scientists were able to observe how well they slept.

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The consequences of poor sleep or lack of sleep

Poor sleep habits “are pervasive” among Americans, the study says, even among study participants. It was found that around 63% of them slept less than seven hours a night and 30% slept less than six hours. The optimal sleep duration for an adult is between seven and nine hours per night, according to the CDC.

People who slept less than seven hours a night were more likely to have “low sleep efficiency,” irregular sleep patterns, excessive daytime sleepiness, and sleep apnea. Specifically, nearly half of the people in the study had moderate to severe sleep apnea. More than a third reported symptoms of insomnia and 14% reported excessive daytime sleepiness.

Those who slept less than seven hours had a higher prevalence of heart disease risk factors such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Other research has also shown connections between lack of sleep and chronic diseases that could also harm heart health.

“Sleep deprivation is also linked to other poor health behaviors,” said study author Nour Makarem, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health. Those poor health behaviors also contribute to poor heart health.

There is growing evidence that people who do not get enough sleep often have poor diet, Makarim said. That may be in part because sleep is a process. repairman which, among other things, produces and regulates hormones that can make you feel full or hungry. When those hormones get out of whack, you may end up eating more and reaching for high-calorie foods that give you quick energy.

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Sleep deprivation is also linked to decreased participation in physical activity, Makarem said.

“Both poor diet and lack of exercise, of course, are also major risk factors for heart disease,” he said. “So sleep is linked to many risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including psychological risk factors.”

Poor sleep can increase stress levels and depression risks, both of which also affect heart health.

“Simply put, sleep is linked to clinical or psychological and lifestyle-related risk factors for heart disease. Therefore, it is not surprising that poor sleep increases future risk of heart disease,” Makarem added.

Sharon Cobb, director of Pre-Licensing Nursing Programs and associate professor at the Mervyn M. Dymally School of Nursing at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Sciences in Los Angeles, said it’s important for care providers take sleep into account when assessing someone’s overall health.

She hopes that future studies will provide additional evidence of a connection between good health and good sleep and prompt more providers to ask questions.

“They take your blood pressure, they ask you how well you eat and how much you exercise, but they don’t often ask you ‘how well do you sleep at night?’” said Cobb, who was not involved in the new research.

“Sleeping well is essential to promote good health,” he said.



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