Heart Beat: May 2016

Sleep schedules, yoga, high cholesterol, and Traditional Chinese exercises


Study Suggests Ideal Heart-Healthy Range For a Good Night’s Sleep

The right amount of sleep for good heart health is more than four hours a night, but not necessarily more than eight hours, according to a study published recently in the International Journal of Cardiology. Researchers in Taiwan and Norway found that sleeping too little or too much on a regular basis significantly increases the risk of dying of some types of coronary heart disease. These include heart attacks and unstable angina. The risk of dying of cardiovascular disease increases by about 50 percent among people who sleep less than four hours a night when compared to those who sleep between six and eight hours a night. It’s not entirely clear why too little sleep raises the risk of cardiovascular mortality. However, researchers suggest that insufficient sleep triggers responses in the body that increase heart rate and blood pressure. Individuals who sleep more than eight hours face similarly elevated risks of dying of heart disease. It is also unclear why longer sleep duration adversely affects heart health. However, researchers noted that women and older adults who sleep too much or too little are at especially high risk. The study involved more than 390,000 individuals.

Yoga May Help Improve the Quality of Life of Patients with Atrial Fibrillation

A small study found that practicing yoga helps individuals with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (afib) manage their symptoms and enjoy a greater quality of life. The research, published in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, found that patients who received standard therapy for afib, including antiarrhythmic medications, and participated in a 12-week yoga program reported a significantly more optimistic and more relaxed outlook compared with similar afib patients who received only standard therapy. Yoga’s benefits appear to include improved relaxation, which makes living with afib more tolerable. These individuals also experienced blood pressure and heart rate reductions, which gave them greater security in dealing with afib, the researchers reported. Previous research has shown that afib can adversely affect a patient’s outlook, which in turn can lead to higher risks of physical deterioration and multiple health complications. The researchers in this study wanted to see if introducing yoga to afib patients could help prevent the emotional and physical decline too often seen in this patient population. Researchers suggest that gentle yoga could play an important role as a complement to standard afib treatment.

Familial High Cholesterol More Common Than Previously Thought

A genetic predisposition to high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol has been a well-established medical fact for a long time. However, a recent study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation found that the genetic cholesterol disorder called familial hypercholesterolemia may be twice as common as previously imagined. Researchers believe the condition may affect as many as one out of every 250 American adults. The condition is also a leading cause of heart attacks at an early age. Researchers are hoping that changing cholesterol screening guidelines that call for cholesterol monitoring of children may help lead to earlier interventions with cholesterol-lowering therapies. Early screening will be especially important since high cholesterol doesn’t have symptoms until serious heart disease is present.

Chinese Exercises May Help Improve the Health of Heart Patients

Traditional Chinese exercises, such as Tai Chi, may boost the well-being of individuals living with heart disease, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. In an analysis of 35 studies from 10 countries, researchers found that heart patients who made Chinese exercises part of their weekly routines lowered their systolic blood pressure (the top number) by an average of 9.12 mm Hg, and their diastolic pressure (the bottom number) by more than 5 mm Hg. Some studies also indicated mild improvements in LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Tai Chi practitioners with heart disease also reported on questionnaires a better quality of life and fewer depressive symptoms. Tai Chi classes are taught at many senior centers. The exercises focus on slow, deliberate movements and focused breathing.


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