February is heart month. February is when we have our hearts checked and when we commit ourselves to heart-healthy living.
According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the US.
Robert Pagano, co-founder of Sleepline also outlines the undeniable link between sleep and heart health: “Sleep deprivation can cause serious problems with your heart and cardiovascular system. Here in the US, we see a 24% increase in heart attacks after the clocks move forward in the spring for Daylight Saving Time. Sleep deprivation increases the amount of C-Reactive Protein, a substance whose concentration can predict future cardiovascular problems. A study showed that people who took part in a sleep deprivation experiment had higher levels of CRP compared to a control group, which led to increased inflammation and an increased heart rate as well as blood pressure problems.”
Thankfully, there are many ways to reduce our risk of heart disease. We have compiled tips from several top sources including Johns Hopkins, American Heart Association, and Mayo Clinic.
- Exercise. No surprise this one is at the top of the list. Physical activity is important to heart health because is strengthens the heart muscle, prevents artery damage, and controls weight. John’s Hopkins recommends three types of exercise for the best protection.
- Eat Healthy Foods. There are many diets touted as effective for weight loss, but you should look for a heart-healthy diet. Mayo Clinic recommends increasing fruits, vegetable and whole grains, while limiting unhealthy fats and sodium, and they explain why with examples.
- Lose Weight. Another well-known fact is that maintaining a healthy weight reduces stress on you heart and circulatory system. A BMI over 25 puts you at higher risk of heart disease. American Heart Association describes more the importance of about BMI and how to calculate yours.
- Don’t Overeat. This may seem like a repeat of the two tips above, but it’s different. Over-indulging, even just one day, can trigger a heart attack. After a large meal, blood moves from the digestive system and heart rhythm can become irregular.
- Reduce Stress. This one is harder to measure, but should be considered. Your body has more than 1,400 biochemical responses to stress, including an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. Not managing your stress can create more stress and trap you in a stress cycle. In addition to losing weight, exercise can help with stress, too; here are more tips.
- Test and Treat Sleep Apnea. This might be the easiest one in the list! Evidence continues to show a close relationship between heart disease, including hypertension, and sleep apnea. When oxygen levels decrease during sleep, blood pressure spikes. This high blood pressure can then carry into the day. But with the use of sleep breathing therapies, such as CPAP or an oral device, blood pressure is shown to near normal levels at night AND during the day.
- Quit Smoking. This one is not easy, but may be the most important. According to the CDC, smoking has been shown to cause increase in triglycerides, decrease in good cholesterol, blood becomes “sticky” with a buildup of plaque, and more. They also offer tips to quit.
February is the ideal time to take steps toward heart health. If you would like information on the easiest step, testing for sleep apnea, contact Millennium Sleep Lab at 1-877-933-9470.