Sleeping too much—or too little—may increase your heart attack risk

In a new study, researchers found sleeping too much or too little may boost people’s heart attack risk.

The high risk even exists in people who are non-smokers and exercisers and have no genetic predisposition to heart disease.

The team also found that for those at high genetic risk for heart attack, sleeping between 6 and 9 hours nightly can offset that risk.

The research was conducted by a team from the University of Colorado Boulder and other institutes.

Many factors can influence both heart health and sleep, making it even more difficult to determine cause and effect.

In the study, the team analyzed the genetic information, self-reported sleep habits and medical records of 461,000 UK Biobank participants age 40 to 69 who had never had a heart attack, then followed them for seven years.

After taking into account 30 other factors—including body composition, physical activity, socioeconomic status, and mental health—they found that sleep duration, in and of itself, influenced heart attack risk independently of these other factors.

Compared to those who slept 6 to 9 hours per night, those who slept fewer than six hours were 20% more likely to have a heart attack during the study period.

Those who slept more than nine hours were 34% more likely to have a heart attack.

The farther people fell outside the 6 to 9-hour range, the more their risk increased.

For instance, people who slept five hours per night had a 52% higher risk of heart attack than those who slept 7 to 8, while those who slept 10 hours nightly were twice as likely to have one.

When the researchers looked only at people with a genetic predisposition to heart disease, they found that sleeping between six and nine hours nightly cut their risk of having a heart attack by 18%.

The findings provide some of the strongest proof yet that sleep duration is a key factor when it comes to heart health, and this holds true for everyone.

The team says regardless of what people’s inherited risk for a heart attack is, sleeping a healthy amount may cut that risk just like eating a healthy diet, not smoking, and other lifestyle approaches can.

One author of the study is Celine Vetter, an assistant professor of Integrative Physiology.

The study is published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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