Your Heart & Sleep

Your Heart & Sleep

Sleeping your way to a healthier heart

In honor of keeping our hearts happy and healthy, let’s take a closer look at how sleep and cardiac health affect one another. Poor sleep has been linked to high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes and obesity. In turn, symptoms of heart disease, such as angina (chest pain) and sleep apnea (when breathing is briefly and repeatedly interrupted during sleep), can make it hard to get a good night’s sleep.

Your heart health is a literally a life and death matter. Sleep, the one thing that’s good for us that we actually enjoy, may be one of the most important keys to a longer, healthier life. We’ve dedicated this post to showing you just how heart health and sleep are related and simple things you can do to keep your heart healthy.

The importance of sleep in heart health

Although studying the link between sleep and heart health is relatively new, in 2011 the European Heart Journal reviewed 15 medical studies involving almost 475,000 people and found that short sleepers (6 hours or less each night) had a 48% increased risk of developing or dying from coronary heart disease in a 7 to 25-year follow-up period. Researchers caution though that the mechanisms behind shortened sleep and heart disease aren’t completely understood. “Lack of sleep doesn’t necessarily cause heart disease,” says Phyllis Zee, MD, PhD, professor of neurology and director of the Sleep Disorders Program at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “It really increases the risk factors for heart disease.”

Heart disease and interrupted sleep

The relationship between sleep apnea and heart disease is evolving quickly. Researchers now know certain symptoms of heart disease can impact how well you sleep. For example, angina can be so painful it wakes you up in the middle of the night and people with cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure, heart failure, and stroke have a high prevalence of sleep apnea. 

How to keep your heart healthy

Although there’s still much to learn, there’s no doubting a link exists heart health and sleep. Sleep is just one of the many factors in keeping your heart healthy. Here are a few other ways to make sure your ticker keeps on ticking a little longer:

  • Exercise often – Exercise is important for so many reasons – keeping your heart healthy is just one of them. Just 30-60 minutes of cardio exercise a day will do the trick. By the way, a walk before work, on your break or after work qualifies. Easy, right?
  • Eat your fruit and veggies – Eat fruits and veggies, whole grains, avoid red meat and sugary, processed foods, and avoid foods high in sodium.
  • Don’t forget about healthy fats – Omega-3 fatty acids protect against heart disease and have an anti-inflammatory effects. Cold water fish, such as trout and salmon, are a good source of omega-3.
  • Load up on quality protein – Fish, chicken, turkey, eggs and diary are all good sources of protein. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood.
  • Drink lots of water – Water is the key to life – literally. Drinking 64 ounces a day not only keeps your heart healthy – bonus, it boosts healthy skin tone, making you look younger. Talk about the fountain of youth!
  • Manage stress – It’s important to learn how to recognize how stress affects you, learn how to deal with it and develop healthy habits to ease your stress.