People with a high genetic risk of heart disease or stroke may be able to offset their risk with 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, according to a study published in the European Heart Journal.
Participants between 37-73 years of age were recruited to the UK Biobank study in 2006-2010. Researchers analyzed blood samples from more than 385,000 healthy study participants of European descent for genetic variations linked to the development of heart disease and stroke. From there, they developed a genetic risk score to determine which participants had a high, intermediate, or low risk of cardiovascular problems. They also developed a healthy sleep score, characterized by a person who slept 7 to 8 hours a night, without insomnia, snoring or daytime drowsiness.
Study participants with both a high genetic risk and a poor sleep pattern had more than a 2.5-fold greater risk of heart disease and a 1.5-fold greater risk of stroke compared to those with a low genetic risk and a healthy sleep pattern. A person with a high genetic risk but a healthy sleep pattern had a 2.1-fold greater risk of heart disease and 1.3 fold greater risk of stroke compared to someone with a low genetic risk and a good sleep pattern.
Although the study does not indicate a causal relationship between sleep and genetic risk of cardiovascular problems, the findings may suggest that sleep behaviors should be considered when reviewing a person’s risk of heart disease or stroke. The study was partly funded by NHLBI.