Let sleep heal your heart - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Let sleep heal your heart

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BIRMINGHAM - AL -

If you are looking for different ways to improve your heart's health, you may have already tried cutting back on sodium and increasing physical activity.  However, snoozing can help.  One expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham says not getting enough sleep can have harmful heart-health effects.  Cardiologist Alan Gertler, M.D. says the ideal amount of sleep is between six to eight hours.

"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."

Sleep deprivation, which generally results from getting less than six hours of sleep per night, "can lead to elevated C-reactive protein levels, which may be a marker of inflammation of the endothelial lining of the arteries, which can increase the risk of atherosclerosis," Gertler stated.

Another sleep-related issue that can lead to heart problems is sleep apnea.  Apnea is when not enough air gets into the lungs through the mouth and nose during sleep.  That decreases the amount of oxygen in your blood. As a result, sleep is interrupted through the night, and the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, cardiac arrhythmias and stroke increase.

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