Lack of sleep increases heart disease risk factors

 - Sakshi Post

The new health guidelines by the American Heart Association talk about sleep as one of the critical factors for heart health, besides diet, physical activity and blood pressure. This new update underscores the widening consensus of the scientific community that links sleep to a healthy heart and its role in helping prevent heart related ailments that have seen a sharp rise globally in the last few years. The heart association recommends adults to get at least seven to nine hours of sleep nightly, which is increasingly becoming a challenge especially since the covid pandemic hit the world in 2020. According to a survey in 2021, since COVID-19 started, many Indian adults reported sleep challenges such as- difficulty in falling asleep (37%), difficulty staying asleep (27%), and waking up during the night (39%).

"Getting a good night's sleep is not just essential for our overall well-being, but also important to maintain our heart health. Lack of sleep does not necessarily directly cause heart disease but it definitely increase the risk factors responsible for cardiovascular diseases," shares Dr. Tilak Suvarna, Senior Interventional Cardiologist, Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai

Dr Tilak lists out 5 ways by which lack of sleep is linked to increased risk of heart disease

·       Hypertension, which is one of the major risk factors for heart attack and stroke, is deeply connected with our quality of sleep. Blood pressure (BP) is a measurement of the force against the walls of arteries when the heart pumps blood to the body.  Our BP falls down while sleeping. However, in the absence of adequate quality sleep, BP can persistently stay high. This can result in high BP or hypertension and its undesirable consequences. Hypertension forces the heart to work harder and can damage the heart arteries. 

·       Diabetes Mellitus, another major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, is worsened with inadequate sleep. This happens because lack of sleep increases the body's insulin resistance. The hormone insulin helps control the amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood, however during insulin resistance, the body doesn’t respond normally to insulin. As a result of this, glucose cannot enter the cells as easily. Over a period of time, consistent insulin resistance leads to type 2 diabetes. 

·       Obesity is another key factor that is intricately related to the quality of sleep. Inadequate or lack of sleep is believed to adversely affect the appetite centre in the brain. This can lead to over-eating and weight gain, especially in children and adolescents who need more sleep than adults. This sets the foundation for cardiac problems in later life.

·       Those suffering from obstructive sleep apnoea, a sleep disorder in which you repeatedly stop breathing during sleep due to narrowed or blocked airways, are at a greater risk of heart disease. This sleep disorder leads to daytime sleepiness and tiredness. If not treated on time these patients can suffer from coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke and irregular heart rhythm.

·       People who are sleep-deprived show less variability in their heart rate. This means that instead of fluctuating normally, the heart rate usually stays elevated. This has been found to be associated with increased risk of heart attack.

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