American Heart Association adds sleep to cardiovascular health checklist

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Getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night can help boost heart health

A new report from the American Heart Association highlighted the importance of sleep for good heart health. Experts from the organization have added sleep to its cardiovascular health checklist, which is now called Life’s Essential 8; the resource is for consumers to improve and maintain their cardiovascular health. 

With the update, the checklist now encourages adults to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night, while children should aim to get even more sleep. 

“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,” said American Heart Association President Dr. Donald M. Lloyd-Jones. “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.” 

Heart health benefits of sleep

The AHA launched its original cardiovascular health checklist in 2010, and the organization has continued to update it based on data in the more than 2,400 research papers on the topic published over the last 12 years. Currently, the checklist includes items on health behaviors and health factors, including diet, physical activity, nicotine exposure, sleep duration, weight, blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides), blood sugar, and blood pressure. 

“We felt it was the right time to conduct a comprehensive review of the latest research to refine the existing metrics and consider any new metrics that add value to assessing cardiovascular health for all people,” Dr. Lloyd-Jones said. 

While several of the items on the checklist were updated to reflect the latest research, sleep duration was the only new addition to the list. Experts gave consumers a goal to aim for each night. Adults should get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, while kids require different amounts of sleep depending on their age. Kids between 13 and 18 should get eight to 10 hours of sleep each night; kids between six and 12 should get nine to 12 hours of sleep; and kids ages five and under should sleep 10 to 16 hours every 24 hours. 

Other updates to the checklist include:

  • A new scoring system, which averages the score of each component from 0 to 100
  • A new guide to assessing the quality of diet
  • Adjustments to cholesterol and blood sugar measures
  • Accounting for smoke exposure 

The researchers also reviewed data on factors like stress, mental health, and social determinants of health. Leaders in the field plan to do more work in this area to see how these factors impact consumers’ heart health. 

“We considered social determinants of health carefully in our update and determined more research is needed on these components to establish their measurement and inclusion in the future,” Dr. Lloyd-Jones said. “Nonetheless, social and structural determinants, as well as psychological health and well-being, are critical, foundational factors in an individual’s or a community’s opportunity to preserve and improve cardiovascular health. We must consider and address all of these issues for people to have the opportunity for a full, healthy life as measured by Life’s Essential 8.” 

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