London - Getting too little sleep may be as much to blame for triggering fatal heart attacks as smoking, say researchers.
They claim a good night’s rest could halve your chances of dying from cardiovascular disease.
Researchers looked at four positive lifestyle habits – taking exercise, a healthy diet, drinking alcohol in moderation, and not smoking – and then studied whether sleep was as important.
People who practised all four traditional healthy behaviours had a 57 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and a 67 percent lower risk of dying from events such as heart attacks.
But getting seven or more hours of sleep a night boosted the overall protective benefit of these behaviours, resulting in a 65 percent lower risk of CVD and a 83 percent lower risk of fatal events.
Sticking to all five of these healthy lifestyle choices could postpone or even prevent 57 percent of heart-related fatalities, says a study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, which looked at the risk of chronic diseases for 14 000 people in their 20s over a 12-year period.
A healthy diet, exercise and moderate alcohol reduced the chance of cardiovascular disease. However, when combined with sufficient sleep, the results improved by up to 22 percent, as much as it did with those who didn’t smoke.
These benefits were even greater when all five lifestyle factors were observed, resulting in a 65 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease and an 83 percent lower risk of fatal cardiovascular disease.
Lead researcher Dr Monique Verschuren, from the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands, said: “The importance of sleep should now be mentioned as an additional way to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.”
Doireann Maddock, of the British Heart Foundation, said: “This research shows combining a good night’s sleep with other healthy lifestyle choices can reduce your risk of heart disease.
“But troubled sleepers should not be alarmed – this study doesn’t mean sleepless nights cause heart disease.” - Daily Mail