We all know that sleep deprivation is linked with a myriad of health issues, including weight gain, bad mood and lowered immune functioning. Now, a new study shows that in addition to getting too little sleep, getting too much sleep can also raise the risk of heart problems.
Researchers from Chicago Medical School found that people who get six or fewer hours of sleep, or eight or more hours of sleep a night are also at an increased risk for heart problems like stroke, congestive heart failure and heart attack, HealthDay reported.
The research was presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 61st Annual Scientific Session.
"We now have an indication that sleep can impact heart health, and it should be a priority," study researcher Dr. Rohit R. Arora, M.D., FACC, chairman of cardiology and professor of medicine at the Chicago Medical School, said in a statement. "Based on these findings, it seems getting six to eight hours of sleep everyday probably confers the least risk for cardiovascular disease over the long term."
The researchers analyzed health data of 3,019 people ages 45 and older who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The findings suggest that people who didn't get enough sleep had a doubled risk of stroke or heart attack and a 1.6-times higher risk of congestive heart failure. Meanwhile, people who got too much sleep (more than eight hours) had a doubled risk of angina and a 1.1-times higher risk of coronary artery disease.
Research is clear on how too little sleep could be linked with health problems, but researchers noted more study is needed to explain why too much sleep is also linked with health problems. However, Arora said that the study shows doctors should be talking to their patients about sleep.
ABC News reported that 6 percent of adults in the U.S. sleep six or fewer hours a night.
"Clinicians need to start asking patients about sleep, especially with those who are already at greater risk for heart disease," Arora said in the statement. "It's a really simple thing to assess as part of a physical exam, it doesn't cost anything and it may help encourage patients to adopt better sleep habits."
Recently, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association detailed the seven heart-healthy behaviors needed to for optimal heart health. However, the study also showed that 1.2 to 2 percent of people abide by all seven behaviors.
For the seven factors linked with living longer lives (and lower heart risks), click through the slideshow:
While not entirely surprising, it doesn't make the message any less important: Smoking kills. The habit is considered the No. 1 cause of preventable death and sickness in the U.S. Specifically, smoking cigarettes harms the heart in that it damages heart and blood vessel function, thereby upping the risk of atherosclerosis (where your arteries harden), according to the National Institutes of Health.
Aerobic exercise is good for the heart in that it makes you take in more oxygen, helps you keep to a healthy weight, reduces plaque buildup in the arteries and helps to lower blood pressure, according to the Mayo Clinic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults are recommended to get at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week (moderate to intense level), and also do muscle-strengthening at least twice a week.
Blood pressure measurements are written in terms of systolic over diastolic. Systolic pressure is "as the heart beats," according to the National Institutes of Health, while diastolic pressure is the relaxation of the heart between heartbeats. A person with a normal blood pressure level has a systolic blood pressure reading of 120 millimeters of mercury or less, and a diastolic blood pressure reading of 80 millimeters of mercury or less. A person is considered hypertensive (has high blood pressure) when the systolic blood pressure is between 140 and 159, and the diastolic blood pressure is between 90 and 99.
Having chronically high levels of glucose, a kind of sugar, in the blood can lead kidney and blood vessel damage, according to WebMD. Insulin, a hormone in the body, is responsible for helping the body's cells to use glucose in the blood. However, if the body doesn't have enough insulin or isn't able to use it properly, then blood sugar levels may rise, according to the American Diabetes Association. High blood sugar is considered a diabetes complication. Tests to check for high blood glucose can help show whether a person has diabetes, and are used to monitor someone with diabetes over time, WebMD reported.
High cholesterol is a known risk factor for heart disease, because it causes hardening of arteries going to the heart, according to the National Institutes of Health. When part of the heart is deprived of blood, it could trigger a heart attack. The optimum total cholesterol level is 200 or fewer milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood, while having a total cholesterol level of 200 to 239 milligrams per deciliter is considered borderline high. High total cholesterol is having 240 milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood, or more, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Calculating your body mass index (BMI, a ratio of weight to height) is a good starting point for knowing if you're at a healthy weight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the BMI chart, having a BMI of 18.5 or below is considered "underweight" and a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered "normal" or healthy weight. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, and a BMI of 30 and above is considered obese. Click here to calculate your BMI. Waist circumference can also give clues to your weight; a man may be at risk for health problems from obesity if his waist circumference is more than 40 inches, the CDC reported. For a non-pregnant woman, it's more than 35 inches.
While there are obviously differences in opinion depending on who you ask as to what you should or shouldn't eat for optimal health, there are some heart-healthy nutrition rules that remain true across the board. The Mayo Clinic reports that eating a diet low in cholesterol and "bad" fats (saturated and trans fats), with low-fat proteins (like lean meats, fish and beans), whole grains (with lots of fiber), and little sodium is good for your heart. For more nutrition advice, click over to the Mayo Clinic.
Follow a heart healthy diet to reduce your risk of coronary disease.