Fight Genes with Sleep, According to New Study

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    There’s no denying that genes can play a large role in our mental and physical health, predisposing some people more than others to certain diseases or conditions. While there’s no changing our genes, there are ways to work with them to optimize our health. One of the healthiest habits you can practice to fight predisposition for conditions like cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and stroke? Prioritizing sleep.

    There’s no shortage of research showing that sleep is vital to our overall sense of health and well-being. However, one new extensive study sheds light on just how influential sleep hygiene can be to our health.

    The Study

    Recently published in European Heart Journal, one study examined 385,292 people over the course of 8 1/2 years, on average. Specifically, researchers evaluated the intersection between self-reported healthy sleep patterns and risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), coronary heart disease (CHD), and stroke. Researchers defined the following as healthy sleep patterns:

    • being a morning person,
    • sleeping 7-8 hours a night,
    • hardly or never experiencing insomnia,
    • not snoring, and
    • not frequently experiencing excessive sleepiness during the day.

    Researchers then further determined if participants had a low, intermediate, or high genetic risk for CHD and stroke. This risk was based on variations of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with these conditions. Notably, participants were between 37 and 73 years old and did not have CVD at the study’s beginning.

    The Results

    An apple a day keeps the doctor away? More like healthy sleep habits keep the doctor at bay, at least according to this study’s findings. Poorer sleep habits correlated with greater health risks among those with high, intermediate, and low genetic risk. That suggests poor sleep habits can override lack of genetic predisposition and increase the risk for CHD, CVD, and stroke. In other words, even those with lower genetic risks can’t avoid prioritizing sleep if they want to decrease their risk of these conditions.

    Conversely, healthier sleeping habits correlated to lower health risks for all genetic predisposition groups. So, those who are at higher genetic risk for these conditions shouldn’t despair. Instead, significant research suggests that optimizing sleep can seriously improve their health and lower their risk of these conditions.

    Final Thoughts

    While there’s no denying the influence of genes, they don’t ultimately determine everything. Healthy habits can fight against genetic predisposition, just as unhealthy habits can put someone at risk for a condition for which they’re not predisposed. When it comes to stroke and heart health, good sleep habits can be especially powerful preventative measures. That makes prioritizing rest one of the most important health decisions we can make.

    References

    Fan, M., Sun, D., Zhou, T., Heianza, Y., Lv, J., Li, L., Qi, L. (2019, December 18). Sleep patterns, genetic susceptibility, and incident cardiovascular disease: a prospective study of 385 292 UK biobank participants, European Heart Journal, ehz849, https://doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehz849

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