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It’s no secret that getting a good night’s sleep helps you feel more alert and ready for the day, but how much shut-eye you need is less straightforward. However, thanks to new guidance from the American Heart Association, we can now say that seven to nine hours of quality sleep is best for your overall heart health.

The relationship between sleep and heart health

The recommendation comes as the AHA updated its checklist that’s used to measure cardiovascular health. Previously titled “Life’s Simple 7″—a name the association has been using since 2010—the questionnaire is now referred to as “Life’s Essential 8.” The new list, which was published Wednesday in AHA’s peer-reviewed journal, Circulation, added sleep to its parameters in addition to its original categories—diet, physical activity, nicotine exposure, blood lipids, blood glucose, and blood pressure.

Sleep and heart health
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The updated guidance states that seven to nine hours of sleep daily is optimal for cardiovascular health for adults and children, depending on age. “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 Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, MD, ScM FAHA, president of the American Heart Association in a statement.

The “Life’s Essential 8” is split into two major categories—health behaviours and health factors. According to the AHA’s statement, health behaviours include diet, physical activity, nicotine exposure, and sleep, while health factors include cholesterol levels, blood sugar, and blood pressure. “The idea of optimal cardiovascular health is important because it gives people positive goals to work toward at any stage of life,” said Dr Lloyd-Jones.

Although the association’s original parameters have been a useful tool for understanding how to keep your heart healthy as you age, Dr Lloyd-Jones believes it was time for an update. “Given the evolving research, it was important to address some limitations to the original metrics, particularly in ways they’ve been applied to people from diverse racial and ethnic populations,” he says.

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