Published in the European Heart Journal, a pioneering new study from the Tulane University Obesity Research Center, has found that those people with a high genetic risk of #heart disease or #stroke could offset that risk with a healthy #sleep pattern. Scientists conducted a large-scale study with 385,292 participants from the UK Biobank, using them to create a genetic risk score to determine whether individuals were at high, intermediate or low risk of #cardiovascular problems. The participants were followed for 8 years, during this time they recorded 7,280 cases of heart attack or stroke. The lead researcher, Dr. Lu Qi, developed a series of health questions in order to develop a “sleep score” for the participants, considering #insomnia and #snoring, as well as hours spent asleep.
Participants were scored between 0 and 5 based on their sleep behaviours, with 21.8% having the healthiest sleep score of 5 and 2.3% having the worst score of 0 or 1. On analysis the researchers calculated that each additional healthy sleep score point reduced the risk of heart disease or stroke by 8%, estimating that 11.5% of the total number of heart disease or strokes recorded could have been avoided had those participants had healthier sleeping habits. Perhaps most importantly is the indication that good sleeping habits could even offset genetic risk factors. The results showed that a person with a high genetic risk factor but a healthy sleep pattern had a 2.1-fold greater risk of heart disease compared with a 2.5-fold greater risk when the genetic risk factor was combined with a poor sleeping pattern (this in comparison with a person who has a low genetic risk and high sleep score).
This was an observational study, indicating an association between sleep scores and cardiovascular outcomes rather than a casual relation. Despite this, the research does highlight the importance for overall sleep behaviours to be examined when considering a person’s risk of heart disease or stroke. Developing good sleep patterns is another tool we can use in conjunction with exercise and healthy eating habits to maintain good heart health. A new book with some great, easy to follow sleep tips we recommend is Feel Better in 5 by Dr Rangan Chatterjee that you can find linked below.