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Adequate Sleep Vital for Heart Health

Diane Fennell

March 30, 2012

We have previously written about the link between sleep and health, including the role of sleep apnea in Type 2 diabetes, the association between a lack of sleep and poor diabetes control, and the importance of sleep for weight loss. Now a new study presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 61st Annual Scientific Session establishes the importance of sleep for yet another aspect of well-being: heart health. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for people with diabetes.

Researchers retrospectively looked at data from more than 3,019 people older than 45 who had participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a survey that examined a range of health issues in American households. Participants were asked about their sleep duration and also whether they had ever been told they had congestive heart failure, heart attack, coronary artery disease, angina (chest pain), or stroke. Results were adjusted for age, gender, total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (“bad” cholesterol), systolic blood pressure, smoking status, diabetes, body-mass index, and disorders such as sleep apnea.

The analysis showed that people sleeping less than six hours a night were twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack and 1.6 times as likely to have congestive heart failure. And those sleeping more than eight hours each night were two times as likely to have angina and 1.1 times more likely to have coronary artery disease.

“We now have an indication that sleep can impact heart health, and it should be a priority,” notes principal investigator Rohit R. Arora, MD, FACC. “Based on these findings, it seems getting six to eight hours of sleep everyday probably confers the least risk for cardiovascular disease over the long term. Clinicians need to start asking patients about sleep, especially with those who are already at greater risk for heart disease.”

Of course, getting adequate, high-quality sleep is easier said than done, particularly if you are dealing with a sleep condition such as sleep apnea or insomnia. For tips on improving your sleep, check out the article “Getting the Sleep You Need,” by nurse David Spero. And for help with handling sleep disorders, see this section about sleep on the MedlinePlus Web site, a service of the National Institutes of Health.

To learn more about the research, read the article “Sleeping Too Much or Too Little Can Be Bad for Your Heart” or see the press release from the American College of Cardiology.



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