Stroke Risk Lower in People With Enough Sleep, Exercise

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Feb 21, 2016 07:05 AM EST

SPOKANE, WA - DECEMBER 13: Ryan Gamble has wires applied to his head by lab technologist Amy Bender in preparation for a polysomnographic recording system demonstration at Washington State University Spokane's Sleep and Performance Research Center. The laboratory, established through $4.5 million in congressional funding, is one of four sleep research centers in the United States that concentrates solely on lab research combined with human field tests to see how sleep loss/deprivation affects work performance. (Photo : Jeff T. Green/Getty Images)

In the United States alone, about 130,000 Americans die each year from stroke. In fact, it is one of the top five leading causes of death in the country. One American suffers from a stroke every forty seconds; and every four minutes, a stroke has taken away one life. 

If you want no part of the statistics, then you had better get enough sleep and exercise, says a new study. The findings were presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference last Feb. 17 to Feb. 19, 2016.

The Ideal Numbers of Sleep and Exercise

The researchers found that individuals who get enough sleep of about seven to eight hours on a nightly basis have 25 percent less risk of suffering from a stroke. Furthermore, one can significantly lower their stroke risk by incorporating 30 minutes to an hour of vigorous activity three to six times a week.

The study also found that those who sleep less than seven hours a night have a 22 percent increased risk of having a stroke. Those who sleep for more than eight hours, on the other hand, were close to 150 percent more likely to have a stroke.

Stroke and Risk Factors

Strokes can happen when there is the presence of clotting that prevents blood supply to the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts.

"I don't think for a very long time anyone talked about the importance of sleep," said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "When it comes to certain things, we all got the message. The smoking thing -- we all got the message. Fried and fast food -- everybody knows that it's bad for you; even the people who live on it know that. I think the sleep thing is not known."

She added that sleeping is essential because it could influence a number of other risk factors that contribute to heart disease. Lack of sleep is associated with high blood pressure, which is one of the biggest risk factors for strokes. There is also an increase in the production of stress hormones and more stiffness of the arteries among people who are sleep-deprived.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 35 percent of American adults are not getting the recommended seven hours of sleep each night.

Sleep and Exercise Should Go Hand in Hand

Getting physically active also plays a good role in stroke prevention. Steinbaum said that exercise dilates the arteries and keeps the lining of the arteries healthy. It also helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

"Exercise, sleep and you have to watch your diet. If you really do those things, it conquers everything else," she said.


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