Sleep can be just as important for your heart as diet and physical activity.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, killing around 18 million people each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). If until now there were seven measures to take into account when talking about heart health – diet, physical activity, smoking, weight, cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure – now a new one can be added: sleep.

Researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health analyzed data from about 2,000 adults in Multiethnic Atherosclerosis Study (MESA), an American study that analyzes the risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Participants underwent sleep and health examinations for seven days.

The study found that 63% of participants slept less than 7 hours per night and 30% slept less than 6 hours. For the measurement of sleep duration, the ideal is to sleep 7 hours or more, but less than 9 hours.

According to the analysis, subjects who slept less than 7 hours per night were more likely to have “poor sleep efficiency”, irregular sleep patterns, excessive daytime sleepiness (14%) and sleep apnea – nearly half of the patients suffered from sleep apnea. moderate to severe sleep.

Additionally, people with sleep disorders also had a higher prevalence of overweight/obesity, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension.

“Lack of sleep is also linked to other health-damaging behaviors,” says study author Nour Makarem, assistant professor of epidemiology at Mailman School of Public Health. The expert explains that people who do not get enough sleep generally have a poor diet and are less predisposed to physical activity.

“Poor diet and lack of exercise, of course, is also a major risk factor for heart disease,” says Makarem. “Sleep is linked to many risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including psychological risk factors.” Indeed, poor sleep can increase stress levels and the risk of depression, which also affects heart health.

“In a nutshell, sleep is linked to clinical or psychological risk factors and linked to lifestyle. It is therefore not surprising that poor sleep increases the future risk of heart disease,” Makarem added.

Thus, the researcher points out that health professionals must assess their patients’ sleep habits, discuss sleep-related problems and educate patients on the importance of prioritizing sleep.

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