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How Sleep Loss Affects Cardiovascular Health

Apr 25, 2016 01:05 PM EDT
Sleep Deprivation
New study shows that lack of sleep can impair genes responsible for cholesterol transport and can also lower the level of good cholesterol causing plaque build-up in the arteries leading to potential heart problems.
(Photo : Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images)

It is known that lack of sleep can cause impairment of thought processes, fatigue, and anxiousness, which leads to lower productivity, but new research shows that sleep loss can also have detrimental effects on cholesterol metabolism, leading to higher risk of cardiovascular diseases.

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, suggests that cumulative sleep deprivation can have a significant impact on heart health.

In addition to two data sets from DILGOM (Dietary, Lifestyle, and Genetic determinants of Obesity and Metabolic syndrome) and Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study, the researchers from the University of Helsinki also conducted an experiment involving participants deprived of sleep under controlled laboratory conditions for a week.

Upon analyzing the three data sets, the researchers discovered that genes involved in cholesterol transport in people who are sleep deprived are compromised compared to those who have enough sleep. The levels of HDL lipoproteins or the "good cholesterol" in people with sleep loss is also significantly lower compared to those who have adequate amounts of sleep. Lower levels of good cholesterol can contribute to plaque build-up in the arteries, which in turn can cause potential heart problems.

"The experimental study proved that just one week of insufficient sleep begins to change the body's immune response and metabolism," said Vilma Aho, researcher from the Sleep Team Helsinki research group, in a press release in EurekAlert.

According to the report of Medical Daily, insufficient sleep has been previously associated with a number of chronic diseases including impaired memory, obesity and weight gain, emotional health and Alzheimer's.

The researchers then concluded having sufficient sleep, alongside healthy diet and exercise, can greatly help in preventing the onset of any illness. They also noted that even a small decrease in illness, or simple postponing of the onset of illness can greatly reduce health-related costs for the society.

With their findings, the researchers are now determined to know how minor the sleep deficiency can be while still causing such changes in cholesterol metabolism.

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