Harvard Heart Letter

Sleep problems may increase the risk of heart attack and stroke

People who sleep poorly or too little have high levels of stress hormones and more inflammation throughout the body. Stress and inflammation each increase risk of heart disease and add to diabetes risk by increasing insulin sensitivity. One sleep problem—sleep apnea—is especially hard on the heart. Sleep apnea sufferers actually stop breathing from 15 to more than 100 times an hour during the night. Blood oxygen levels drop, making it hard for the heart to do its job of pumping oxygen-rich blood through the arteries. Studies are under way to see whether treating sleep apnea improves heart health.
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