People who sleep less than six hours a day are 27% more likely to suffer atherosclerosis than those who rest between seven and eight hours, according to a new study from the National Center for Cardiovascular Research (CNIC) in Madrid. If the dream is also of poor quality, the increase in risk reaches 34%. Atherosclerosis, produced by the accumulation of fat and cholesterol in the walls of the arteries, is behind chest angina and acute myocardial infarctions.
The cardiologist Valentín Fuster, general director of the CNIC, recalls the seven usual factors of cardiovascular risk: obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, increased glucose, smoking, lack of exercise and poor diet, such as excessive consumption of salt or sugary drinks. "We started adding an eighth risk factor. We see that lack of sleep leads to the onset of the disease, "he explains.
"Sleeping between seven and eight hours, with good sleep quality, is ideal," the cardiologist emphasizes. Previous studies had already shown an association between lack of sleep and atherosclerosis, but they were based on low reliability surveys. The strength of the new work is its precision. Fuster's team has analyzed almost 4,000 Santander Bank employees in Madrid. The volunteers, with an average age of 46 years and men in 63% of cases, have carried on their wrists for a week an actigraph, a device that measures movements to assess sleep characteristics. In addition, the researchers obtained three-dimensional images of their femoral and carotid arteries, using ultrasound, and a CT scan of their heart.
"Sleeping between seven and eight hours, with good sleep quality, is ideal," says cardiologist Valentín Fuster.
Lack of sleep is a growing concern for public health experts. According to data from the National Institute of Statistics, there are almost three million people in Spain who claim to sleep less than six hours a day. This lack of rest is associated with an increased risk of serious diseases, such as diabetes and cancer. The Spanish Sleep Society recommends adopting healthy habits, how to avoid caffeine, play sports, maintain a regular sleep schedule and eliminate noise from the sleeping environment.
The new study has been published today in the Journal of American College of Cardiology, the magazine of the College of Cardiology of the USA of which Fuster himself is the editor in chief. Other researchers from the CNIC, such as Fernando Domínguez and others, have participated in the work. José María Ordovás.
"Cardiovascular diseases are a big problem worldwide. We are currently preventing and treating affected people with different methods: drugs, physical activity and diet. However, the results of this new study emphasize that we must include sleep as another tool to combat them, "Ordovás, who is also director of the Nutrition and Genomics Laboratory at Tufts University in the United States, said in a statement. "This is the first study that shows that objectively measured sleep is independently associated with atherosclerosis throughout the body, not just in the heart," he adds.
The project, called PESA CNIC-SantanderSince 2010, it has been studying some 4,000 healthy bank workers to try to identify cardiovascular risk factors before the symptoms appear. In Spain, diseases of the circulatory system were the first cause of death in 2017, being responsible for more than 122,000 deaths, almost 29% of the total.