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Sleep for a Healthy Heart

Sleeping personThis past weekend, more than 1.5 billion people participated in the biannual routine of adjusting their clocks for daylight savings time. The tradition of “falling back” an hour in autumn and “springing forward” an hour in spring helps us to adjust to seasonal changes in daylight.

Daylight savings time may also have an impact on our cardiovascular health, according to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study shows that there is typically a 5 percent drop in heart attack deaths and hospitalizations the day after the clocks are set back in the fall.  In contrast, the number of heart attacks recorded increases 6-10 percent in the spring when clocks are set forward again.  The results were drawn from Swedish data recorded over a 20-year time span.

What’s behind these statistics?  The answer may have something to do with the amount of time we have to sleep.  As most people use the extra hour in the fall to catch up on sleep, their hearts benefit as a result.  And losing an hour in the spring puts more stress on our hearts.

  • Scientists know that sleep deprivation can put stress on the heart.
  • As the body boosts blood pressure and heart rate to make up for lack of sleep, dangerous blood clots can form as a result.
  • It seems that even an extra hour for a short period of time can make a significant difference in heart health.

These findings add to the growing body of knowledge about heart disease.

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, with 700,000 people dying each year, or 29% of all deaths.
  • Many factors and conditions can lead to heart disease, including obesity, diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol and genetic makeup.

So what can we take away from this study? People at-risk for heart disease should focus on maintaining a healthy lifestyle by exercising and eating well, and they should get extra sleep.

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