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Study led by Upstate professor reveals that insomnia increases heart attack risk

A new study led by an Upstate Medical University associate professor shows that insomnia is linked to a higher risk of having a heart attack.

A meta-analysis with a sample size of more than 1 million people revealed that insomnia increases the risk of myocardial infarction, or heart attack, by 69 percent.

The study, Association between insomnia and the incidence of myocardial infarction: A systematic review and meta-analysis, was published in the prestigious journal Clinical Cardiology last month, the abstract presented at the American College of Cardiology Conference and the results have since been featured on media outlets across the United States, including online at CNN.

Hani Aiash, MD, PhD, associate professor of cardiovascular perfusion, medicine and assistant dean of interprofessional research in the College of Health Professions, said the findings are extremely significant.

“Myocardial infarction is the leading cause of death all over the world,” said Aiash. “We have a lot of modifiable risk factors and a lot of non-modifiable risk factors. We need to change the things we can change. It is better to protect or prevent one myocardial infarction than to treat one hundred patients with it. Because once it happens part of your heart muscle will be dead. We don’t need that. The consequences are terrible.”

Aiash said that ten to 15 percent of people in the United States suffer from insomnia, which is either trouble falling, maintaining asleep or waking up in the night and not being able to get back to sleep.

Aiash said that if you sleep five hours or less, your risk is 56 percent higher than if you sleep seven to eight hours, with seven to eight hours being the perfect amount of sleep. However, if you sleep nine or more hours, the risk is the same as if you slept five or less.

“Sleeping too much isn’t good either,” Aiash said. “Our bodies need to move.”

Add co-morbidities such as hypertension and diabetes into the mix and the risk grows even higher.

“It is very important to know that sleep is medicine,” Aiash said.I think we must reevaluate the modifiable risk factors for MI and add insomnia to them to treat it as we treat diabetes, hypertension and other modifiable risk factors.”

Aisah led a team of more than a dozen researchers from around the world on this study.

To avoid insomnia and improve sleep, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends:

—Be consistent with going to sleep at the same time each night and getting up at a similar time every morning, including on weekends. This helps establish a rhythm for your body.

—Make sure your bedroom is a relaxing, quiet and dark space with a comfortable temperature.

Remove smartphones, TVs and computers from the room.

—Avoiding large meals, caffeine and alcohol before bedtime gives your body the best chance at sleeping well

Remain active during the day

Caption: Hani Aiash, MD, PhD, led a team of more than a dozen researchers from around the world on this study.