Poor Sleep Is a Lifestyle CV Risk Factor: AHA Statement

Larry Hand

September 20, 2016

DALLAS, TX — Sleep duration and sleep disorders may be risk factors for cardiometabolic and cardiovascular disease, according to a new scientific statement from the American Heart Association[1].

"Cardiologists should ask patients about their sleep and provide information about the relationship between sleep and cardiovascular disease. They should refer for sleep studies if sleep apnea or other sleep disorders are suspected," Dr Marie-Pierre St-Onge (Institute of Human Nutrition, Columbia University, New York) told heartwire from Medscape.

"Sleep should be viewed as an important lifestyle factor associated with CVD risk, just as diet and exercise are known to influence disease risk," she said.

St-Onge and colleagues conducted a literature review of studies related to sleep duration and disorders and cardiovascular and cardiometabolic disease.

Their results were published online September 19, 2016 in Circulation.

According to population-based studies, they write, obstructive sleep apnea and insomnia put people at significant risk of CVD and cerebrovascular diseases, including arrhythmias, atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, heart failure, hypertension, and stroke, as well as metabolic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and dyslipidemia.

They defined inadequate sleep as less than 7 hours a night. However, long sleep duration, defined as 9 or more hours a night, has also been linked to obesity, hypertension, and diabetes.

Randomized controlled trials have shown that weight loss from behavioral or surgical interventions could have positive effects on sleep-disordered breathing, the researchers write.

Cardiologists "should tell their patients not to take sleep lightly and have them make sure they allow for sufficient time in bed, following recommendations to obtain at least 7 hours of sleep per night," St-Onge said.

"Scientists need to further establish causality of the relation and determine whether improving sleep can reduce CVD risk. We have recommendations for sleep duration for healthy adults but need to determine the optimal time for prevention of chronic disease," she concluded.

St-Onge reported receiving research funding from the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health. Disclosures for the coauthors are listed in the article.

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