DeCinti: More sleep can help your heart

First Posted: 2/3/2010

We all know February is the month for love, but trying to pinpoint why we celebrate Valentines Day the way we do, is not as apparent as you may think.
However, one thing is clear: During February the American Heart Association reinforces its commitment to fighting heart disease by promoting awareness about its risks, causes, and ways to reduce the chance of developing this deadly illness.
More than 70 million Americans live with some form of heart disease, and this disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States.
Many of the factors that lead to heart disease such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and obesity can be controlled with common-sense steps and healthy lifestyles. The organization encourages Americans to work toward four simple goals that can maintain a healthy heart:
Exercise daily.
Develop good eating habits.
Avoid tobacco, drugs, and excessive alcohol.
Take advantage of preventive screenings to detect problems early.
According to recent estimates, nearly one in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure. Because there are no symptoms, a third of these people dont know it. In fact, many people have high blood pressure for years without knowing it, which is why it is often called the silent killer. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure or kidney failure. The only way to tell is to have your blood pressure checked.
It is discouraging that although we have the power to protect ourselves, most Americans ignore that fact and suffer needlessly. Though making healthy choices is simple in theory, it takes a disciplined person to stick with it. Sadly, most people can do it, but choose not to until its too late.
In the spirit of crawling before running, why dont we start with something easy to do that can be just as helpful as a detailed health and wellness program sleep.
Sleeping more than five hours each night significantly lowers the risk of developing high blood pressure in adults. High blood pressure is becoming an increasingly common problem, even though people are more knowledgeable about it and how it can be treated.
When people with high and normal blood pressure are studied, both have increased blood pressure when their sleep is cut short. Other studies show that women who get too little sleep are more likely to have a heart attack. Understanding the relationship between sleep and blood pressure could point the way to decreasing the risk.
Blood pressure and heart rate vary during the day and are lowest during sleep. In fact, blood pressure remains low while a person sleeps and immediately increases when a person wakens. Obviously, for people who sleep less, the average blood pressure would be higher because they would have shorter periods of low blood pressure.
A recent survey found that the risk of high blood pressure was nearly double for people between the ages of 32 and 59 who sleep five hours or less each night. A short period of sleep could also influence hypertension, by making it more difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Not getting enough sleep was associated with irritability, impatience, feeling tired and stressed, and feelings and emotional states that would reduce your willpower to follow diet or exercise plans.
The bottom line: Getting enough sleep is important to your health, and might be helpful in warding off high blood pressure, which can lead to a number of other problems, including heart and kidney disease and stroke. So end your day with a good nights sleep. Then when you wake up feeling refreshed, you can start working on that diet and exercise plan.

Mike DeCinti is the marketing director for Lumberton Radiological Associates. He can be reached at [email protected] or by calling (910) 738-8222, ext. 258.

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