American Heart Association adds sleep duration to heart health checklist

·2 min read

Story at a glance

  • The AHA announced Wednesday it has updated its widely used metrics to measure a person’s cardiovascular health to now include sleep.

  • The AHA first defined the seven health behaviors and factors in 2010, but added the sleep metric after 12 years of robust research showing sleep plays a key role in heart health.

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. and a recent study found the U.S. population is well below optimal levels of cardiovascular health.

Sleep plays a crucial role in maintaining optimal heart health and has now been added to the American Heart Association’s (AHA) cardiovascular health checklist.

The AHA announced Wednesday it has updated its widely used metrics to measure a person’s cardiovascular health, previously known as the “Life’s Essential 7” questionnaire, to now include sleep.

Now called “Life’s Essential 8,” the list of key factors used by doctors to rate patient’s heart health includes blood pressure, blood glucose, blood lipids, body mass index, nicotine exposure, physical activity, diet, and now, sleep duration. The measure is used for anyone ages 2 and older.

The AHA first defined the seven health behaviors and factors in 2010, but added the sleep metric after 12 years of robust research showing sleep plays a key role in heart health.

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“The new metric of sleep duration reflects the latest research findings: sleep impacts overall health, and people who have healthier sleep patterns manage health factors such as weight, blood pressure or risk for Type 2 diabetes more effectively,” American Heart Association President Donald M. Lloyd-Jones said.

“In addition, advances in ways to measure sleep, such as with wearable devices, now offer people the ability to reliably and routinely monitor their sleep habits at home.”

The AHA says adults should get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night to maintain a healthy heart. Children ages 5 and younger should get 10 to 16 hours of sleep, while those ages 6 to 12 need 9 to 12 hours and teens 13 to 18 require 8 to 10 hours.

Research has shown that inappropriate sleep duration, sleeping either too much or too little, is associated with coronary heart disease and poor psychological health.

Several other heart health indicators, including diet, nicotine exposure, blood lipids and blood glucose were updated. For example, the use of e-cigarettes or vaping devices was added since the previous nicotine metric only monitored traditional tobacco use such as cigarettes.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. and a recent study found the U.S. population is well below optimal levels of cardiovascular health. About 80 percent of people in the U.S. have low-to-moderate heart health based on the AHA’s “Life Essential 8” checklist.

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