Sleep problems linked to heart health risks during and after menopause | Hello

How well a woman sleeps — not just how long — as she goes through menopause can affect her predicted risk of heart disease and stroke, new research suggests.

The study found that peri- and postmenopausal women who had a range of sleep disturbances scored worse on key measures of cardiovascular health than their premenopausal peers. The findings were presented in November at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions Conference in Philadelphia and are considered preliminary until the full results are published in a peer-reviewed journal.

“Women going through menopause should definitely monitor their sleep habits and take it seriously,” said the study’s lead researcher, Dr. Brooke Agarwal, assistant professor of medical sciences in the division of cardiology at Columbia University Medical Center. in New York. York City. “They need to know that sleep disturbances are common and something they may need to discuss with their healthcare team.”

Previous studies have shown that approximately half of women going through menopause report sleep problems, specifically difficulty falling asleep or waking up too early. The risk of sleep apnea, which may be related to hormonal changes and weight gain, also increases during this period of a woman’s life. Obstructive sleep apnea, the most common type, occurs when blocked airways cause breathing to stop and start, preventing the body from getting enough oxygen to feel rested.

Numerous studies have found a link between poor or insufficient sleep and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Last year, the AHA added sleep duration as one of eight key measures of cardiovascular health, recommending that adults get seven to nine hours a night. The other components of Life’s Essential 8, or LE8, include not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, maintaining physical activity, eating a healthy diet, and keeping blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels within normal limits.

In the new study, the researchers examined whether other aspects of sleep—besides how long a person slept each night—might be associated with cardiovascular health risks, as measured by how well women adhered overall and to individual components of LE8.

The analysis included data on 291 pre-, peri- and postmenopausal women ages 45 to 55 who were enrolled in a weight study as part of the AHA’s Research Goes Red, a registry and research platform for women’s health.

Half of the women in the study slept less than seven hours a night, 79% reported poor sleep quality, 51% reported insomnia, 12% were considered night owls and a third were considered at high risk for sleep apnea. Poor sleep quality is more common in women who have entered or completed menopause than in those who have not yet entered menopause.

Sleep quality, insomnia, risk of sleep apnea, and being a night owl all affect overall cardiovascular health as well as the individual components of LE8.

Women with poor sleep quality are three times more likely to have poor overall cardiovascular outcomes. They were also more likely to score low on the diet component.

Women who were night owls and at high risk for sleep apnea had three times the risk of poor overall cardiovascular health outcomes. A high risk of sleep apnea is also associated with poor outcomes for blood pressure, blood sugar, and weight. Insomnia has also been linked to poor weight outcomes.

“For women in this age group, there is a vulnerability to both heart health problems and sleep problems,” said Dr. Michael Grandner, director of the Health and Sleep Research Program and associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Arizona in Phoenix.

Because women often juggle multiple challenges at this stage of life, such as being at the top of their careers and caring for aging parents and teenagers at the same time, “they may simply assume that these sleep problems are due to stress ” said Grandner, who was not involved in the new study.

They may also be experiencing the beginning stages of a chronic disease that can accompany middle age, weight gain and inflammation and other factors that make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep, he said. But that doesn’t mean bad sleep is inevitable.

“Women shouldn’t let anyone tell them it’s just fatigue or that it’s just part of being in that age group,” Grandner said. “It’s a sign that there might be something worth fixing.” If they’re struggling with sleep and it’s affecting their day, they shouldn’t just excuse it. It can have an impact on heart health, and there are solutions that can reduce those risks.”

The first step is to see a health professional or sleep specialist to identify the problem, he said. Many sleep problems can be prevented or improved by adopting good sleep practices, such as allowing yourself enough time to rest at night, creating a dark environment conducive to sleep, reducing stress, caffeine, nicotine and alcohol, increasing of light exposure and physical activity during the day and setting a regular bedtime and wake-up time. For more severe problems such as insomnia, cognitive behavioral therapy or, if necessary, medication can help.

Sleep apnea can also be treated through healthy lifestyle changes, such as weight loss and increased physical activity, or by using a breathing device or mouthpiece.

Ignoring sleep problems can have serious consequences for heart health, Agarwal said.

“Menopause is an early window for cardiovascular disease prevention,” she said. “This is truly a critical time in a woman’s life and there is much that can be done to reduce cardiovascular risks so that women can live longer and healthier lives.”

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