There are five major or primary risk factors for heart disease:

  1. Some abnormality in blood fats and, in particular, cholesterol.
  2. High blood pressure which is typically a pressure consistently above 135/85. Up to the age of 50, the lower pressure is more important but over the age of 50 the higher pressure is typically more linked to cardiac risk.
  3. Cigarette smoking – the more you smoke, the more you are at risk.
  4. Diabetes, or a tendency to diabetes known as insulin resistance, which is closely aligned with metabolic syndrome (a topic of future blog/article).
  5. Having a family member who has some form of cardiovascular disease typically before the age of 60.

A recent study of 14,000 people over the age of 20, over a twelve year period of follow up, has detected another vitally important risk factor for heart disease. It appears that insufficient sleep is probably as damaging to the cardiovascular system as cigarette smoking.
In this study the researchers recognised four traditionally healthy lifestyle behaviours, i.e. a healthy diet, regular exercise, drinking alcohol in moderation and not smoking and found that those who practise all four of these behaviours have a 57% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 67% lower risk of dying from a cardiac event.

If you have seven hours or more quality sleep a night, this boosted the overall protective benefit, leading to a 65% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a staggering 83% lower risk of fatal cardiac events.

Good quality sleep rejuvenates the body for the next day by allowing the vital organs, including the heart and blood vessels to slow down and have a rest. I will stress the importance of healthy sleep and how to achieve it in future blogs/articles.

Dr. Ross Walker

[First published July 31, 2013]