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Sleep joins the list of eight key factors for heart health


Routinely getting a good night’s sleep has been added to the American Heart Association’s list of key components of cardiovascular health, lengthening the list to eight factors the association believes can lead to a longer, higher-quality life without heart disease.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and has been for the past century, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since 2010, the AHA had focused on seven points: maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, being physically active, eating a healthy diet, and keeping blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar at acceptable levels.

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Now, however, as indicated in its report published in the journal Circulation, the AHA believes that healthy sleep also should be taken into account. The group’s suggested goal is seven to nine hours of sleep daily for adults, and more for children (eight to 10 hours for 13- to 18-year-olds, nine to 12 hours for 6- to 12-year-olds and 10 to 16 hours for children 5 and younger).

Sleep has long been considered vital to good health, both physically and psychologically. Sleep gives the body a needed break to heal and repair itself, setting people up to function normally when they awaken. But a lack of sleep (or poor-quality sleep) puts a person at higher risk for such conditions as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and more.

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Besides adding sleep, the AHA tweaked some of the other factors on its list, which it dubbed “Life’s Essential 8.” For instance, the topic of smoking was expanded to account for exposure to secondhand smoke and vaping, and cholesterol monitoring was changed to tracking non-HDL cholesterol rather than total cholesterol.

The AHA offers an online tool for people interested in checking their cardiovascular health and risks they may face, based on the organization’s new checklist.

This article is part of The Post’s “Big Number” series, which takes a brief look at the statistical aspect of health issues. Additional information and relevant research are available through the hyperlinks.