Poor sleep during menopause may increase heart disease risk in women

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New research suggests that the quality of sleep experienced by women during menopause, rather than just its duration, may affect their risk of heart disease and stroke.

The study found that peri- and postmenopausal women who had various sleep disturbances showed worse cardiovascular health measures compared to their premenopausal counterparts.

These findings emphasize the importance of addressing sleep problems during menopause as a potential risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

Dr. Brooke Aggarwal, the study’s lead investigator, stressed the significance of monitoring sleep habits during menopause and discussing sleep disturbances with healthcare providers.

Studies have shown that approximately half of women going through menopause report sleep problems, including difficulty staying asleep or waking up early. The risk of sleep apnea, often related to hormonal changes and weight gain, also rises during menopause.

Poor sleep and insufficient sleep have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that adults get seven to nine hours of sleep per night as one of eight key measures of cardiovascular health.

In the study, researchers explored whether aspects of sleep, beyond its duration, were linked to cardiovascular health risks, including adherence to the AHA’s Life’s Essential 8 (LE8) components, which include not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, staying physically active, eating a healthy diet, and managing blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol levels.

The analysis involved data from 291 women aged 45 to 55 enrolled in a weight study as part of the AHA’s Research Goes Red initiative.

Key findings included:

  • Poor sleep quality was associated with three times higher risks of poor overall cardiovascular health scores and low scores in the diet component.
  • Women who were “night owls” and at high risk for sleep apnea had a threefold higher risk of poor overall cardiovascular health scores.
  • Sleep apnea risk was linked to poor scores for blood pressure, blood glucose, and weight.
  • Insomnia was associated with poor scores for weight.

Dr. Michael Grandner, a sleep specialist, emphasized the importance of addressing sleep problems, as they could impact heart health. Women should consult healthcare professionals or sleep specialists to identify and treat sleep problems.

Good sleep practices, such as creating a sleep-friendly environment and reducing stress, caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, can be beneficial. Cognitive behavioral therapy or medication may help with severe sleep problems, and sleep apnea can be managed through lifestyle changes or medical devices.

Addressing sleep problems during menopause can be a critical step in preventing cardiovascular disease, as menopause is a window of opportunity for cardiovascular risk reduction in women.

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