A lack of sleep is associated with an increased risk for stroke and heart attack.
That's the finding of British researchers who analyzed data collected from more than 470,000 people in eight countries, including the United States.
"If you sleep less than six hours per night and have disturbed sleep, you stand a 48% greater chance of developing or dying from heart disease and a 15% greater chance of developing or dying of a stroke," said Francesco Cappuccio, MD, of the Warwick Medical School in England and a coauthor of the research.
"The trend for late nights and early mornings is actually a ticking time bomb for our health so you need to act now to reduce your risk of developing these life-threatening conditions," he added.
study with Dr. Cappuccio, explained that "chronic short sleep produces hormones and chemicals in the body which increase the risk of developing heart disease and strokes, and other conditions like high blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes and obesity."
"There is an expectation in today's society to fit more into our lives," Dr. Cappuccio said. "The whole work/life balance struggle is causing too many of us to trade in precious sleeping time to ensure we complete all the jobs we believe are expected of us."
"But in doing so," he said, "we are significantly increasing the risk of suffering a stroke or developing cardiovascular disease resulting in, for example, heart attacks."
Getting about seven hours of sleep a night protects your health and reduces your risk for developing chronic disease, Dr. Cappuccio advised.
The study was published in the European Heart Journal.
Don't Die from a Broken Heart
Researchers tracked the heart health of 78 adults who had lost a spouse or child (within the previous two weeks) and that of adults who had not.
Result: During a six-month period, the bereaved had twice as many rapid-heartbeat episodes as the non-bereaved, increasing heart attack risk.
Theory: Mourning causes profound stress, which may damage the heart. These changes typically resolve after six months.
If a loved one passes: Have a physical, including a heart checkup, within one month of the loss.