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Insomnia increases heart attack risk by 69 percent

According to a comprehensive review study published in the journal Clinical Cardiology, people who suffer from insomnia are 69 percent more likely to have a heart attack compared to those without sleep disorders during an average nine years of follow-up. The experts found that individuals who sleep five or fewer hours per night have the greatest risk of experiencing a heart attack, while people with both insomnia and diabetes are twice as likely to have a heart attack than those without these conditions.

“Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder, but in many ways it’s no longer just an illness, it’s more of a life choice. We just don’t prioritize sleep as much as we should,” said study lead author Yomna E. Dean, a medical student at Alexandria University in Egypt. “Our study showed that people with insomnia are more likely to have a heart attack regardless of age, and heart attacks occurred more often in women with insomnia.”

The scientists conducted a systematic literature review of 1,226 studies, comprising data for 1,184,256 adults (43 percent women) with an average age of 52. Among those, 13 percent (153,881) had insomnia, defined by the presence of any of these three symptoms: difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, or waking up early and not being able to get back to sleep. Most of the participants (96 percent) did not have a previous history of heart attacks. During a follow-up period of nine years, 2,406 of those who had insomnia experienced heart attacks, as well as 12,398 of those in the non-insomnia category.

The investigation revealed a statistically significant association between insomnia and heart attacks across all subgroups of patients, regardless of their age, follow-up duration, sex, and comorbidities such as diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure. However, those with such comorbidities were at an even greater risk for heart attacks. “People with diabetes who also have insomnia had a twofold likelihood of having a heart attack,” Dean reported.

While those who slept five or less hours per night were 1.38 and 1.56 times more likely to have a heart attack compared to those who slept seven or eight hours, there was no difference in the likelihood of heart attacks between them and those who slept over nine hours, supporting previous findings that too much sleep can also be damaging.

Moreover, although disorders of initiating and maintaining sleep were associated with a 13 percent increased risk of heart attacks, non-restorative sleep and daytime disfunction did not seem to influence the likelihood of heart attacks.

“Based on our pooled data, insomnia should be considered a risk factor for developing a heart attack, and we need to do a better job of educating people about how dangerous [lack of good sleep] can be. Practice good sleep hygiene; the room should be dark, quiet, and on the cooler side, and put away devices. Do something that is calming to wind down, and if you have tried all these things and still can’t sleep or are sleeping less than five hours, talk to your doctor,” Dean concluded. 

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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