A new study has found that getting too much or too little sleep may cause the heart to “age” prematurely. The researchers described the aging effects as “excess heart age.” Heart age is measured based on a person’s cardiovascular risk profile, which was created in the 2008
Framingham Heart Study. “The difference between a person’s estimated heart age and his or her chronological age is ‘excess heart age.’ Higher excess heart age indicates a higher risk of developing heart disease,” said lead study author Quanhe Yang.
The study collected data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys between 2007 and 2014. In total, there were 12,755 participants between the ages of 30 and 74 who had no previous history of heart disease or stroke. The participants were divided into five groups based on the length of time they slept on average, collected through self-reports. There was approximately 13 percent of the participants who reported sleeping five hours or fewer per night, 24 percent who slept six hours per night, 31 percent who slept seven hours, 26 percent who slept eight hours, and 5 percent who slept nine hours or more each night.
After analyzing the data, the researchers created cardiovascular risk profiles for the participants based on age, sex, blood pressure, treatment for hypertension, smoking history, diabetes, and cholesterol. They then compared the excess heart age with the number of hours slept per night to measure the effects of sleep on the cardiovascular system.
Seven Hours of Sleep per Night Is the Best for Your Heart
The results showed that those who slept seven hours per night had the lowest overall average heart risk. This was calculated as an average 3.7 years of excess heart age, compared to chronological age. The participants who slept six hours or eight hours showed an excess heart age of 4.5 years respectively. Those who slept five hours or fewer had an average 5.1 years of excess heart age.
“Prolonged periods of insufficient sleep have negative effects on multiple body systems including the cardiovascular system,” said Yang. “Studies have shown significant relationships between sleep duration and heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, smoking, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity.”
By quantifying a person’s risk of cardiovascular diseases or issues in terms of excess heart age, it would be easier for patients to understand exactly how critical it is for them to consider their cardiovascular health when making lifestyle changes. This will also emphasize the importance to young people to ensure they are getting the proper amount of sleep (a recommended seven hours) per night.
Since this is not a new way of measuring cardiovascular risk, it is relatively easy to calculate your own excess heart age. There are several heart age calculators online and by comparing your score to your actual age you can determine your level of risk of developing cardiovascular disease. If you are at all concerned about the score you receive, contact your medical practitioner to discuss any steps you need to take to lower your risk of heart disease.
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