Sunday, February 24, 2013
A good snooze, regularly, can help the heart stay healthy
Cutting back on sodium and increasing physical activity are not the only ways to improve heart health - a good night's sleep can also help promote cardiovascular health. One expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham says not getting enough sleep can have harmful heart-health effects. The ideal amount of sleep is between six to eight hours, said cardiologist Alan S. Gertler, M.D., associate professor of medicine in UAB's Division of Cardiovascular Diseases and part of UAB's Heart & Vascular Services. "Deep, high-quality sleep is needed to lower heart rate and blood pressure, which reduce stress on the heart," Gertler explained. Heart rate and blood pressure also rise and fall during rapid eye movement (REM) in response to dreams. According to the National Institutes of Health, those variable rates also contribute to making the heart healthier. "Without enough sleep, there is an increase in blood pressure and stress hormones, lower glucose tolerance and weight gain," Gertler said. "All of these factors can increase the risk of coronary artery disease."