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Why your heart needs a good night's sleep

Monday, January 14, 2019 (HealthDay News) – Six hours: This is the minimum amount of night sleep you need to keep your heart healthy, new research says.

The study found that chronic lack of sleep and poor sleep quality increase the likelihood of accumulation of fatty plaques in the arteries – a condition known as atherosclerosis, which increases the likelihood of heart attack and stroke.

There are many ways to fight heart disease, including "drugs, physical activity and diet," said lead researcher Jose Ordovas. "But this study emphasizes that we must include sleep as one of the weapons we use to fight heart disease – a factor we are threatening every day."

Ordovas is an investigator at the National Center for Cardiovascular Research in Madrid, Spain.

In his new research, his team used coronary ultrasound and CT scan to monitor the arteries in nearly 4,000 Spanish adults. Study participants, the average age of 46 years, did not have heart disease at the start of the study.

The study could not prove the cause and effect, but people who slept less than six hours a night were 27 percent more likely to have whole body atherosclerosis than those who slept seven to eight hours a night, reported Ordovas and his colleagues .

Too much sleep was not great for the heart. The study also found that women who slept more than eight o'clock in the night were at increased risk of atherosclerosis.

Participants with poor quality sleep – frequent awakenings or sleeping difficulties – were 34 percent more likely to have atherosclerosis than those who had good sleep.

The study was published on 14.1 Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

"This is the first study to show that objectively measured sleep is independently associated with atherosclerosis throughout the body, not just in the heart," Ordovas said in a journal. He also manages nutrition and genomics at the Jean Mayer USDA Nutrition Aging Center at Tufts University in Boston.

People who had short and poor quality sleep also tended to consume higher levels of caffeine and alcohol, Ordovas said.

"Many people think alcohol is a good inducer of sleep, but there is a rebound effect," he said. "If you drink alcohol, you can wake up after a short while of sleep and it's hard to get back to sleep, and if you get back to sleep, it's often a poor quality sleep."

Two US experts agreed that sleep is a key component of cardiovascular health.

While the direct causal relationship between healthy sleep and heart remains unclear, "targeting sleep habits is finally recognized in the medical world as an important factor in improving heart disease," Dr. Eugenia Gianos. Manages women's health at the heart of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.

Gianos reasoned that behavior at the time of awakening a person can explain the conjunction of sleep-heart. That's because patients with good sleep hygiene have the energy to be physically active, make healthy foods, and better manage stress, "she said.

Dr. Thomas Kilkenny manages sleep medicine at Staten Island University Hospital, also in New York. A new study "opens the door to further research so we can hope to show the cause and consequences of poor sleep quality and the onset of atherosclerosis," he said.

"Meanwhile, doctors should continually evaluate their patients to identify sleep disorders and stress their patients' need to maintain at least six to eight hours of sleep per night," Kilkenny said.

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