Sleeping Well Reduces Genetic Risks Of Strokes & Heart Disease

mbg Editorial Assistant By Abby Moore
mbg Editorial Assistant
Abby Moore is an Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine.

Image by ANDREY PAVLOV / Stocksy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., and strokes don't follow far behind as the fifth leading cause of death. Adopting a healthier diet and becoming more physically active can reduce risks, but genetic risks can't be avoided. Or can they?

A study published in the European Heart Journal found that high-quality sleep can lower the risk of developing heart disease or stroke, regardless of genetic susceptibility. 

What did they find? 

Researchers analyzed the blood work of 385,292 healthy participants to determine whether they were at high, intermediate, or low risk of developing cardiovascular problems. They then developed a sleep score ranging from zero to five (five being the best sleep).  

"We wanted to test whether the relation between sleep scores and cardiovascular outcomes was different according to the genetic risk," lead author Lu Qi, M.D., Ph.D., said in a news release. "This is the first time this has been done."

These participants were tracked for 8.5 years, and in that time they reported more than 7,000 cases of stroke and heart disease. 

People with a sleep score of five reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease by 35%, and they were 34% less likely to have heart disease and stroke than people with sleep scores of zero and one.

These results proved that high-quality sleep played a role in reducing cardio and cerebrovascular risks, even if they were at risk genetically. "In addition, we found that people with a low genetic risk could lose this inherent protection if they had a poor sleep pattern," Qi said. 

Taking this information into account, the researchers determined that more than one-tenth of heart disease and stroke accidents could have been prevented if patients experienced higher quality sleep. 

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What defines high-quality sleep?

High-quality sleep in this study was defined as a "morning person" without insomnia, snoring, or feelings of drowsiness during the day. These people typically slept between seven and eight hours each night. 

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One in three adults in the U.S. do not get enough sleep and are (according to this new information) at a higher risk of developing stroke or cardiovascular disease even if they're healthy and show no other symptoms.

Researchers hope that doctors can utilize this information to help predict and prevent heart and brain attacks in patients with poor sleep and that patients will use it to prioritize sleep. 

While getting seven to eight hours of shut-eye each night is imperative, getting too much sleep during the day can be equally detrimental. If you're struggling to fall asleep, consider these vitamins, herbs, and supplements that promote relaxation and support deep sleep.*

If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medications, consult with your doctor before starting a supplement routine. It is always optimal to consult with a health care provider when considering what supplements are right for you. 

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