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Research shows that sleep can be just as important to heart health as diet and physical activity.

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If you want to keep your heart healthy, add a good night’s sleep to your to-do list, according to a new study. (Mitarart, Adobe Stock)

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WASHINGTON — If you want to keep your heart healthy, add a good night’s sleep to your to-do list, according to a new study.

Heart disease is the #1 killer in the country, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Every 34 seconds in the United States, someone dies from cardiovascular disease.

In June, the American Heart Association added sleep time to its cardiovascular health checklist, now called “Life’s Essential 8. These science-based guidelines were created to help all Americans improve their heart health.

Eight items: quitting tobacco, eating better, being active, managing weight, managing blood pressure, controlling cholesterol, lowering blood sugar, and getting sound sleep.

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

Research by 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.

Researchers looked at sleep recordings of 2000 middle-aged or older adults in an ongoing US study of cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular disease risk factors, called the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, or MESA.

Participants participated in the detailed sleep research. They filled out sleep questionnaires, wore a device that measured their sleep for seven days, and did a nighttime study in which scientists could observe them sleeping.

The study says poor sleep habits are “all over the place” among Americans, including those who participated in the study. It was found that about 63% of them slept less than seven hours a night and 30% slept less than six hours. According to the CDC, the optimum sleep time for an adult is between seven and nine hours a night.

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, about half of the people in the study had moderate to severe sleep apnea. More than one-third reported insomnia symptoms 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 links between short sleep and chronic diseases that can also harm heart health.

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

Makarem said there is growing evidence that people who don’t get enough sleep eat a poor diet. This may be partly because sleep is a restorative process that produces and regulates hormones that can make you feel full or hungry, among other things. When these hormones kick in, you may start to eat more and look for calorie-rich foods that give you quick energy.

Poor sleep is also linked to lower participation in physical activity, Makarem said.

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


They take your blood pressure, ask how well you eat and exercise, but not so much ‘how well do you sleep at night?’

–Sharon Cobb, Charles R Drew University of Medicine and Science


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

“In summary, sleep is associated with clinical or psychological and lifestyle risk factors for heart disease. Therefore, it is not surprising that inadequate sleep increases the risk of future heart disease,” Makarem said.

Sharon Cobb, MD, director of undergraduate nursing programs and associate professor at the Mervyn M. Dymally School of Nursing at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles, said it’s important for healthcare providers to consider sleep when assessing someone’s condition. general health.

He hopes that future studies will provide additional evidence of the link between good health and good sleep, and will prompt more providers to ask questions.

“They take your blood pressure, they ask how well you eat and how much exercise you do, but not so much ‘how well do you sleep at night?’ ‘ said Cobb, who was not involved in the new research. “Getting good sleep is crucial to promoting health.”

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