American Heart Association lists healthy sleep as essential for heart health

The American Heart Association on Wednesday added healthy sleep as an essential part for “optimal cardiovascular health.”

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According to a news release from the American Heart Association, sleep duration is now considered an essential part of ideal heart and brain health.

Heart disease, also known as cardiovascular disease, is the number one cause of death in the United States and around the world, according to AHA. Per AHA’s 2022 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics Update, around 121.5 million Americans have high blood pressure, 100 million are facing obesity, over 28 million have Type 2 diabetes, and 1 in 4 adults report “achieving the physical activity and exercise recommended in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition.”

Over 80% of all cardiovascular events over the past 20 years could have been prevented by managing a healthier lifestyle and understanding the risk factors of cardiovascular disease, according to AHA.

Sleep has been added as the eighth element of the AHA cardiovascular health checklist, according to Northwestern University. The new checklist is called Life’s Essential 8.

“Sleep is related to every single one of the other seven elements—it’s closely tied to weight, blood pressure, glucose metabolism, what we choose to eat,” said AHA President Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, according to Northwestern University. “But sleep is both correlated and also independent. There’s newer research that shows when we take the old seven and add sleep, we can predict cardiovascular disease and stroke even better.”

According to Northwestern University, some people find it hard to modify their sleep schedule either due to late work shifts or multiple jobs but sleep is an important way to achieve cardiovascular health. It’s recommended to have about seven to nine hours of sleep a night and to avoid caffeine, screens and bright lights hours before bedtime.

Life Essential 8 per AHA includes:

  1. Diet
  2. Physical activity
  3. Nicotine exposure
  4. Sleep duration
  5. Body mass index
  6. Blood lipids
  7. Blood glucose
  8. Blood pressure

“We considered social determinants of health carefully in our update and determined more research is needed on these components to establish their measurement and inclusion in the future,” said Lloyd-Jones in a news release. “Nonetheless, social and structural determinants, as well as psychological health and well-being, are critical, foundational factors in an individual’s or a community’s opportunity to preserve and improve cardiovascular health. We must consider and address all of these issues for people to have the opportunity for a full, healthy life as measured by Life’s Essential 8.”