Heart association adds a new safeguard to its list: a good night’s sleep

ahaessential8-300x267 Get some sleep!

That’s not just a late-night nudge for the kids from their parents.  It is strong new advice patients will hear from their cardiologists and other doctors, as the American Heart Association has added sleep to its list of important ways for folks to avoid cardiovascular conditions, stay healthier, and live longer, the Washington Post reported.

The association has focused on behavioral and other factors for a time now to battle the leading cause of death in this country: heart disease. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that almost 700,000 Americans died of heart disease in 2020. The ailment costs the country $230 billion annually. The heart association experts added sleep to the “Life’s Essential 8” list of safeguards, reporting this in an article published in a medical journal:

“Although there is a paucity of evidence indicating that improving sleep  duration or quality reduces  [cardiovascular disease] incidence,  several  other  lines  of  evidence  support  its  connection with [cardiovascular health]. For example, laboratory studies show that experimentally manipulated sleep affects blood pressure, inflammation, glucose homeostasis, and other relevant factors. Larger observational studies show that small changes in sleep at the population level are associated with changes in [cardiovascular disease]-related risk factors. Research indicates that real-world manipulation of sleep time is possible and that therefore sleep time is modifiable. Last, a limited number of studies demonstrate that real-world sleep manipulation is associated with changes in [cardiovascular disease]-related risk factors.”

The newspaper translated the research language into easier reading, thusly:

Sleep has long been considered vital to good health, both physically and psychologically. Sleep gives the body a needed break to heal and repair itself, setting people up to function normally when they awaken. But a lack of sleep (or poor-quality sleep) puts a person at higher risk for such conditions as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and more.”

As the Washington Post also reported of the heart association and its views on healthful zzzz’s:

“The group’s suggested goal is seven to nine hours of sleep daily for adults, and more for children (eight to 10 hours for 13- to 18-year-olds, nine to 12 hours for 6- to 12-year-olds and 10 to 16 hours for children 5 and younger).”

Besides sleep, the association’s list of heart healthy recommendations for patients include:

  • maintain a healthy weight
  • don’t smoke
  • be physically active
  • eat a healthy diet
  • keep blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar at acceptable levels

As the newspaper reported:

“Besides adding sleep, the AHA tweaked some of the other factors on its list … For instance, the topic of smoking was expanded to account for exposure to secondhand smoke and vaping, and cholesterol monitoring was changed to tracking non-HDL cholesterol rather than total cholesterol. The AHA offers an online tool for people interested in checking their cardiovascular health and risks they may face, based on the organization’s new checklist.”

In my practice, I not only see the harms that patients suffer while seeking medical services, but also the clear benefits they may enjoy by staying healthy and far away from the U.S. health care system. It is fraught with medical errorpreventable hospital acquired illnesses and deaths, and misdiagnoses. Patients also suffer far too many harms due to bankrupting and dangerous drugs.

Prevention matters. It can be far cheaper, often easier, and a much better alternative than spending time waiting for even the most optimal medical services. If you need medical care, you should not hesitate to seek it. Health care in the wealthiest nation in the world should be a right not a privilege

If you’re tossing and turning and struggling to sleep, this may be a seasonal issue, the New York Times has reported. If you need suggestions on how to snooze better year ‘round, the newspaper has a guide on doing so.

Sleep tight! We have much work to do to take good care of ourselves and avoid unnecessary, costly medical care.

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