Heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide, killing around 18 million people each year. Most people are aware of the common things and habits that are bad for your heart. Things like diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, smoking, heavy drinking, and eating an unhealthy diet are well-known risk factors for heart disease. But did you know that everything from your sleep patterns to your flossing regimen can also impact your risk? These are 10 of the most surprising habits that can increase your risk of heart disease.
Not Getting Enough Sleep
The occasional late night isn’t the end of the world, but frequently running on too little sleep could spell trouble for your heart’s health. Your heart needs rest just as much as the rest of your body. When you fall asleep, you enter non-rapid eye movement (REM), or quiet, sleep. In this state, your brain activity, heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure drop. Your muscles relax, and your breathing slows down. Non-REM sleep allows your body to release stress and recover from the day. Several studies have found that people who don’t get enough sleep or sleep poorly are at higher risk of heart disease. Less than 6 hours of sleep per night is associated with a 20 percent increase in the risk of a heart attack. Sleep deprivation can increase inflammation and the release of stress hormones, both of which have negative effects on heart health. People with sleep disorders like insomnia and sleep apnea have a higher risk of heart failure.
If you’re frequently waking during the night or sleeping fitfully, you’re probably not getting enough non-REM sleep. Unfortunately, that means you’re sleeping but without getting the benefits. Fortunately, there are many ways to improve the length and quality of your sleep. De-stressing before bed and limiting tech usage can go a long way to making sure you’re preparing your brain for sleep. Exercise and being mindful of what you eat/drink before bed will also have a huge impact.