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A good night’s sleep may be good for your heart

Making sure you get plenty of sleep could increase the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and prevent heart problems, researchers suggest.

BMJ Group News

What do we know already?

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Taking regular exercise, a healthy diet, drinking alcohol in moderation, and not smoking - these are the kinds of lifestyle changes that we know can help protect people from heart problems, and reduce the chances of dying early from heart problems. There’s lots of evidence that back the benefits of these lifestyle changes.

Researchers wanted to find out if getting a good night’s sleep - which they defined as seven hours or more a night - could enhance the benefits of healthy lifestyle changes. Several studies have suggested that it can, and that lack of sleep is linked to a risk of being overweight, and to high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

To find out more, researchers studied 17,887 adults aged between 20 and 65 who had no heart problems. They asked them about their diet, their physical activity, whether they drank or smoke, and how much sleep they usually got a night. Then the researchers recorded how many people in the study, which lasted about 12 years, died of heart problems, or had a heart attack or stroke.

What does the new study say?

During the study about 7 in 1,000 people died of heart problems, about 20 in 1,000 had a heart attack, and about 6 in 1,000 had a stroke.

The healthier people’s lifestyle, the less chance they had of dying of heart problems, or of having a heart attack or stroke.

People who had a healthy diet, drank in moderation, didn’t smoke, and exercised often, reduced their chances of dying of heart problems, or having a heart attack or stroke, even more if they had “sufficient sleep” every night.

How reliable is the research?

This type of study does have problems that limit how much we can rely on the findings. The researchers used questionnaires to collect information about the participants’ lifestyles, and we can’t be sure this information is completely accurate.

The participants were questioned about their lifestyle at the beginning of the study, but the researchers didn’t record any changes in their lifestyle after this point. It’s likely that participants’ lifestyles changed during the study. For example, the amount of sleep they usually got a night may have changed, and this may have affected the results.

What does this mean for me?

This is one of several recent studies suggesting that a good night’s sleep may be important for more than just helping you feel rested and awake. Making sure you get an early night or two every week is a simple lifestyle change that most people can make. It won’t do you any harm and it might do you an awful lot of good.

Published on July 04, 2013

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