Doing This at Night Slashes Your Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke by 75 Percent, New Study Says

It's so easy, you can do it in your sleep.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. among both men and women, killing one person every 34 seconds. The good news? Though poor heart health can take a devastating toll, most cases of heart disease and stroke are preventable, experts say. In fact, a recent study found that changing one nighttime habit can cut your risk of these two conditions by 75 percent. Read on to learn which one change can make a staggering difference to your heart health, and why even incremental shift can make all the difference.

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Most people don't get enough sleep.

man awake in bed, signs you need a new mattress

Experts say that you should get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. Yet according to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three American adults regularly fail to get this amount.

"As a nation we are not getting enough sleep," Wayne Giles, MD, director of CDC's Division of Population Health writes. "Lifestyle changes such as going to bed at the same time each night, rising at the same time each morning, and turning off or removing televisions, computers, mobile devices from the bedroom, can help people get the healthy sleep they need," he says.

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Following these sleep habits slashes your heart disease and stroke risk by 75 percent.

woman sleeping in a bed
GP PIXSTOCK / Shutterstock

The CDC isn't the only health group to consider which sleep habits can help improve your health. Building on previous research which established links between poor sleep duration and cardiovascular events, a recent study conducted by the European Society of Cardiology has released a crucial study on which sleep specific habits can slash your risk of heart disease and stroke.

The study analyzed questionnaire responses from 7,200 participants of the Paris Prospective Study III (PPP3), which probed five sleep habits in particular: getting seven to eight hours of sleep, rarely or never having insomnia, experiencing no frequent daytime sleepiness, having no sleep apnea, and being "morning person." For each sleep habit maintained optimally, participants were given one point. The researchers then checked for coronary heart disease and stroke every two years for a decade, looking for relationships between sleep habits and coronary conditions.

The results were even most striking when the researchers compared those with a score of zero or one to those with a score of five. Those with optimal sleep habits had had a 75 percent lower risk of heart disease or stroke compared with those with the poorest sleep habits. The researchers estimated that seven in 10 cardiovascular events could be prevented by practicing optimal sleep habits.

Even incremental changes can make a significant impact.

Doctor listening to patient's heartbeat during home visit

The researchers also learned that it's possible to cut your heart disease and stroke risk incrementally by focusing on one good sleep habit at a time.  They concluded that study participants were able to reduce their coronary by 22 percent for every one-point increase in their sleep score.

Though the team noted that they were unsurprised by some of their findings, they said it underscored the importance of making positive changes now. "The low prevalence of good sleepers was expected given our busy, 24/7 lives," said study author Aboubakari Nambiema, PhD, MPH, of INSERM (the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research) via press release. "The importance of sleep quality and quantity for heart health should be taught early in life when healthy behaviors become established."

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These other interventions can also help slash your risk.

elderly couple happily exercising

Getting a good night's sleep is an under-recognized way to lower your risk of heart disease and stroke, but it's hardly the only factor within your control. Experts from the Mayo Clinic say that you can also reduce your risk by eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, getting between 30 and 60 minutes of daily activity, quitting smoking, managing stress, and going for regular heart screenings.

Speak with your doctor if you have questions about how to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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