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Sleep disorders may double the risk of heart attacks and quadruple the risk of stroke

Sleep disorders should be considered a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, along with smoking, lack of exercise and poor diet, suggests a study of Russian men.

Poor sleep quality may be just as detrimental to health as smoking, lack of exercise and poor diet

Picture credit: Alamy

A total of 657 men aged 25 to 64 years, resident in Novosibirsk, Russia, participated in the World Health Organization study. The men had no history of heart attack, stroke or diabetes. Their sleep quality was assessed at the beginning of the study in 1994. Cases of myocardial infarction and stroke were recorded over the next 14 years.

During follow up nearly two thirds (63%) of participants who had a heart attack also had a sleeping disorder. Between five and 14 years of follow up, men with a sleeping disorder had a risk of myocardial infarction that was 2 to 2.6 times higher and a stroke risk that was 1.5 to 4 times higher than those without a sleeping disorder. The highest incidences were in men who were widowed, divorced, had not finished secondary school, and were engaged in medium to heavy manual labour.

Researcher Valery Gafarov, professor of cardiology at the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences in Novosibirsk, said guidelines for the prevention of cardiovascular disease should include sleep as a risk factor.

‘Sleep is not a trivial issue,’ said Professor Gafarov. ‘In our study it was associated with double the risk of a heart attack and up to four times the risk of stroke.

‘People who are not sleeping well should speak to their doctor. Our previous research showed that sleeping disorders are closely connected with depression, anxiety and hostility, so speaking with a psychologist may also help.’

Professor Gafarov presented the findings at EuroHeartCare, the annual meeting of the Council on Cardiovascular Nursing and Allied Professions of the European Society of Cardiology. The meeting was held in June in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

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