Sleep health


Roundup: Poor Sleep Linked to Risk of Irregular Heartbeat; Diabetes and Too Much Red Meat in Diet; and More News

Insomnia Associated with Higher Risk of Irregular Heartbeat in Young Adults

A growing body of research links sleep disorders or poor sleeping habits with a greater risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions. The latest research on the topic, a large study of military veterans, has found that young adults diagnosed with insomnia were more likely to develop a potentially serious type of irregular heartbeat – atrial fibrillation, or AFib -- than those without a history of insomnia.

The new research, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, explores how early in life those risks of AFib tied to insomnia may begin.

"We know a lot about the risk factors for AFib in middle-aged and older adults but less about risk factors earlier in life," said lead study author Dr. Allison Gaffey, a clinical psychologist and instructor in the section of cardiovascular medicine at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, in a statement. "To better guide efforts for earlier prevention, we started looking at younger adults."

Insomnia is a common disorder involving a difficulty in either falling or staying asleep. It is usually accompanied by daytime impairments. AFib is a cardiovascular condition that typically affects older adults. Patients with AFib can experience irregular heartbeats, palpitations, and lightheadedness. Treatment may consist of medications to control the heart rate, such as beta blockers, and/or blood thinners. AFib can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other types of heart problems.

Researchers reviewed electronic health records for more than 1 million veterans. The average age of study participants was 28 at the beginning of the study. They received health care from the Veterans Health Administration between October 2001 and the end of 2017. The vast majority – 87 percent – were men and 61 percent had been in active duty. About 11 percent had been diagnosed with insomnia.

After more than 16 years of follow-up, 4,168 cases of AFib were diagnosed. Veterans who also had been diagnosed with insomnia at the beginning of the study had a 32 percent higher risk for AFib than those without the sleep disorder.

According to a news release on the study from the American Heart Association: “Being male or having a history of obesity, alcohol abuse, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, heart disease, heart failure and a psychiatric disorder also increased the risk for AFib. But even after controlling for these factors, the higher AFib risk for people with insomnia persisted.”

Not getting enough sleep regularly can contribute to being overweight and worsen chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and depression. A lack of adequate sleep has short-term effects on alertness and cognitive function. But over a long period of time, sleep deprivation can lead to significant health issues. It’s important to discuss sleep issues you may be having with your doctor, who can help you find a solution.

This Much Weekly Consumption of Red Meat Linked to Higher Risk of Diabetes

Over-consumption of red meat has been previously linked to a higher risk of heart disease. A new study is the largest to date to associate diets containing red meat with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 

Led by researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the new study found that people who eat just two servings of red meat per week are at higher risk of a diabetes diagnosis than people who eat fewer servings. That risk increases with greater consumption of red meat.

Not surprisingly, they also found that “replacing red meat with healthy plant-based protein sources, such as nuts and legumes, or modest amounts of dairy foods, was associated with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes,” states a news release on the study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

“Our findings strongly support dietary guidelines that recommend limiting the consumption of red meat, and this applies to both processed and unprocessed red meat,” said first author Xiao Gu, postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in a statement.

The researchers based their findings on data from 216,695 participants who took part in the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS), NHS II, and Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS). Diets were analyzed based on questionnaires filled out by the participants every two to four years, for up to 36 years. During this time, more than 22,000 participants developed type 2 diabetes. The study is considered the most extensive on the topic of red meat and diabetes risk because of the extended period of years that was involved in follow-ups.

The researchers concluded that participants who ate the most red meat had a 62 percent higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, compared to those who ate the least. Every additional daily serving of processed red meat was associated with a 46 percent greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes -- and every additional daily serving of unprocessed red meat was linked to a 24 percent higher risk.

“Given our findings and previous work by others, a limit of about one serving per week of red meat would be reasonable for people wishing to optimize their health and wellbeing,” said senior author Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition, in a statement.

Modest ‘Calorie Restriction’ can Fuel Healthy Aging, Say NIH Researchers

Decreasing calories in a healthy manner that doesn’t deprive the body of essential vitamins and minerals -- which is known as “calorie restriction” -- may “rejuvenate your muscles and activate biological pathways important for good health,” according to a study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The new study, published in Natural Aging, focused on data from participants in the Comprehensive Assessment of Long-Term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy (CALERIE), a study supported by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) that examined whether moderate calorie restriction conveys the same health benefits seen in animal studies.

During a two-year span, participants were able to reach a 12 percent calorie reduction. This slight reduction in calories was enough to activate most of the biological pathways that are important in healthy aging, states the NIH in a news release.

"A 12 percent reduction in calorie intake is very modest," said corresponding author and NIA Scientific Director Luigi Ferrucci, M.D., Ph.D., in a statement. "This kind of small reduction in calorie intake is doable and may make a big difference in your health."

The researchers also found that even with such modest calorie restrictions, participants lose muscle mass and an average of 20 pounds of weight over the first year – but maintain their weight for the second year. Despite losing muscle mass, however, calorie-restriction participants did not lose muscle strength, “indicating calorie restriction improved the amount of force generated by each unit of muscle mass, called muscle specific force,” the NIH stated.

"Since inflammation and aging are strongly coupled, calorie restriction represents a powerful approach to preventing the pro-inflammatory state that is developed by many older people," said Dr. Ferrucci, in a statement.

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