In middle and older age, many adults take care to exercise regularly and try to eat a healthy diet in order to prevent heart disease. We also know that controlling stress and staying socially engaged are beneficial for our overall health and well-being, and now the American Heart Association has added sleep quality as one of the essential factors in promoting optimal cardiac health.
According to a recent Medical News Today report, the AHA advisory last published its factors for assessing cardiac heath in 2010. These factors included physical activity, smoking, blood pressure, blood glucose levels, cholesterol levels, and body mass index. More recently the factors were updated to include nicotine use through e-cigarettes and vapes.
In addition to including sleep quality, the AHA now also highlights the role mental health, socioeconomic status, and cultural factors such as racial discrimination can play in influencing heart health. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the United States but healthier lifestyle habits can significantly reduce the risk of developing CVD.
Good cardiovascular health is not only associated with greater longevity, better overall quality of life, and a reduced risk for cancer and kidney disease, protecting heart health can also lower the risk of developing dementia in older age. A healthy diet consisting of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, and fish, regular exercise, and stopping smoking all reduce the risk for CVD. Getting adequate quality sleep has also been found to influence weight, blood pressure, and the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Because research increasingly shows that quality sleep – at least seven hours of good sleep each night, affects many chronic health conditions, it’s worth making an effort to prioritize a good night’s rest. Exercising, a healthy diet, and reducing stress help make good sleep easier, but millions of American adults struggle with sleep disorders. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule, turning off devices an hour before bedtime, keeping the bedroom dark, cool and quiet, and avoiding caffeine, alcohol or a large meal in the late evening can also help promote more restful sleep.
Talk to your doctor about ongoing sleep problems and visit the AHA website to learn more about sleep’s role in protecting cardiac health.