Mark L. Meyer MD,

 F.A.C.P., F.A.C.C.

Sleep And Your Heart

People over 45 years of age who have slept fewer than six hours per night were about twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack than people who have slept six to eight hours per night. (according to a study reported by the Sleep Foundation)

Why is sleep important to your health? Most people could come up with a decent size list of reasons sleep is important. Sleep makes you less depressed, recovers your body and improves immune dysfunction.

How can sleep directly be associated with heart health? Medical news shows that researchers aren’'t really sure, but for the most part they assume it'’s because too little sleep can cause disturbances among other health conditions and living processes such as blood pressure and inflammation.

Not sleeping enough disturbs cholesterol.

The duration of your sleep actually affects lipid levels, causing them to be higher than they should be, due to either a lack of sleep or simply too much sleep. According to "About Health," studies have shown that too little or too much sleep affects HDL, LDL and/or triglyceride levels.

Reduced sleep could modify hormones like leptin and ghrelin which increase appetite, resulting in an increase in food intake when unnecessary. In addition, a lack of sleep could increase cortisol, causing swelling and contributing to heart disease.

Sleeping inadequately increases the risk of obesity, diabetes and a high BMI.

A lack of sleep inevitably leads to tiredness and low energy. Without hesitation, most people automatically eat unhealthy junk foods such as potato chips or sugary candies, contributing to weight gain. In addition to late night binging on comfort foods, those who don’'t sleep don'’t tend to exercise as often. The double whammy increases your risk of weight gain and diabetes, and ultimately results in further sleep loss.

Poor sleeping habits increase risk for hypertension.

When we don'’t sleep, our bodies produce more stress and the two major stress systems, HPA and Sympathomedullary systems, are activated. As a result, our bodies release excess cortisol and adrenaline. Overtime, these excess stressors can lead to sustained hypertension.

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From Our Friends at SleepHelp.Org

Heart Disease and Sleep

Heart disease is a catch-all term for several heart conditions, including the most common kind, coronary heart disease. Left untreated, it can lead to heart attacks, and one in four deaths in America every year are caused by heart disease. According to the CDC, nearly half of Americans have at least one of the three risk factors for developing this condition: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking.

Another key risk factor is sleep deprivation. Not getting enough sleep increases your risk for high blood pressure, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, all of which are risk factors for heart disease. Additionally, sleep apnea (which is linked to obesity and other conditions, including heart failure) and insomnia increase your risk for high blood pressure and heart attacks.

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