heart health and sleep

Just like eating healthy promotes a healthy heart, new research shows that getting the right amount of sleep is important to the health of your heart. (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

In recent years, countless studies have shown just how important sleep is to our physical health.  Not getting enough sleep has been tied to everything from heart disease to diabetes and highlighting the important role sleep plays in how our immune system functions, our cognitive abilities, and even our lifespan.  A new study shows that dealing with sleep issues as part of their overall treatment plan may be the difference between life and death for those already suffering from heart problems.

The study was conducted at the University of Toronto and published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.  The goal of the study was to look deeper at the relationship between sleep and heart health by specifically targeting the experiences of people who have undergone a coronary angioplasty.  The team wanted to understand if the sleep habits of this group and the outcomes they experienced after the procedure.   Their findings make it clear that sleep management must be part of the overall treatment plan for those with heart problems.

The study involved 388 patients who had undergone percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) surgery.  After the surgery, participants were asked to complete a questionnaire about how they were sleeping.  The resulting data showed the number of sleep disturbance symptoms each participant was experiencing.

Researchers then followed up with each participant four years later to gather data on their health since the surgery to determine if they had experienced any “primary events”.  The primary events were death, myocardial infarction (MI), and repeated revascularization.  The sleep data was then mapped against the health outcomes to determine if there was any relationship between primary events and sleep disturbance.

The team found that only 12% of the participants whose initial sleep disturbance symptom number was zero experienced a primary outcome in the 4 years following PCI.  This means that those participants who were getting adequate sleep directly following the surgery were unlikely to die, have a heart attack, or need to undergo PCI again during the 4 year period.

On the other side of the scale, 67% of the participants with a sleep disturbance symptom number of 9 experienced a primary outcome during the 4 year period.  This shows that sleep plays an important role in heart health even for those who are already dealing with heart disease or cardiac problems.

The team concluded that people who experience sleep disturbance symptoms are at an increased risk for adverse outcomes following PCI and highlight the need to deal with sleep disorders and sleep disturbances as part of an overall treatment program. The findings also underscore the importance of dealing with any sleep disorders in those with cardiac symptoms as early as possible.

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