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Sleep is now an official marker of heart health

In 2010, the American Heart Association (AHA) implemented a list of key measures for improving and maintaining cardiovascular health called Life’s Simple 7. By taking into account factors that influence heart health – such as diet, physical activity, body mass index, nicotine exposure, blood pressure, and levels of  blood lipids and glucose – this algorithm could be used to determine each individual’s cardiovascular health score, and provide advice on how to improve it. 

Until recently though, this list did not include what is now thought to be an essential component of heart health: sleep duration. In their new Life’s Essential 8™, experts argue that adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night to maintain optimal cardiovascular health. 

“Sleep impacts overall health,” said Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, the director of AHA. “People who have healthier sleep patterns manage health factors such as weight, blood pressure or, risk for type 2 diabetes more effectively,” and thus increase their heart health. 

While adults are advised to sleep between seven and nine hours per night, children should sleep even more: 10 to 16 hours for ages five and younger, nine to 12 hours for ages six to 12; and eight to 10 hours for ages 13 to 18. 

According to the experts, adequate sleep promotes healing and repair of cells, tissues, and blood vessels, improves cognitive functioning, and reduces the risk of a wide range of chronic diseases. Thanks to new technological advancements, people can now track their sleeping patterns in order to identify possible disturbances. 

“Advances in ways to measure sleep, such as with wearable devices, now offer people the ability to reliably and routinely monitor their sleep habits at home,” said Dr. Lloyd-Jones. 

For improving sleep, scientists recommend that, during the night, devices such as smartphones or tablets should be set to dim mode, so that screen light does not disrupt our circadian rhythms and melatonin levels. Moreover, notifications should be turned off to ensure that they don’t interrupt our sleep.

More tips on how to improve sleep can be found on AHA’s website.

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer  

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