Poor sleep can triple risk for heart disease

Feb. 22, 2022

Individual aspects of poor sleep can be detrimental to heart health. But if you combine them, the risk of heart disease can increase by as much as 141%. That’s the finding of a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

The University of South Florida-led study reviewed sleep data of 6,820 U.S. adults with an average age of 53 who self-reported their sleep characteristics and heart disease history. The study was described in a news release. Among the participants, 633 also wore a research device (actigraphy) around their wrist that captured sleep activity.

Researchers focused on multiple aspects of sleep health, such as regularity, satisfaction, alertness during waking hours, timing of sleep, sleep efficiency and sleep duration and linked them to physician-diagnosed heart disease. They found that each additional increase in self-reported sleep health problems was associated with a 54% increased risk of heart disease. The estimated risk of heart disease associated with an increase in sleep health problems was much higher for those who provided sleep data by both self-report and the research device. They had a 141% increase — a figure that could be perceived to be more accurate.

The research team asked participants about their health, including if their physician confirmed a heart condition such as arrythmia, heart murmur, or an enlarged heart. High blood pressure was not considered a diagnosis as it’s labeled a risk factor for heart disease rather than a heart disease condition. They also controlled for family history of heart disease and sociodemographic factors, such as race, sex, smoking, depression, and physical activity.

Researchers found that while women reported having more sleep health problems, men were more likely to suffer heart disease — yet gender did not impact the overall correlation between the two factors. They also found that Black participants had more sleep health problems and a higher prevalence of heart disease than White participants, but the strong association between sleep health and heart disease did not differ by race in general.

While sleep health is important for all ages, the team focused on middle adulthood as it spans for a longer period of time and consists of diverse and more stressful life experiences due to work and family roles. This is also when precursors for heart disease and age-related sleep issues begin to arise.

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