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A better night's sleep could be good for heart health

July 5, 2013

A good night's sleep is undoubtedly an important part of a healthy lifestyle for seniors, and new research suggests getting enough shuteye may increase the benefits older adults receive from other healthy aging choices. Scientists from the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands discovered that adults who got more sleep enjoyed greater cardiovascular benefits from activities such as regular exercise, a smart diet and moderate alcohol consumption.

The findings, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, were based on a study of more than 14,500 men and women, all of whom had no cardiovascular disease at the start of the trial. Researchers followed the subjects over the course of 12 years. The team looked at how strictly participants adhered to heart-healthy lifestyle choices well as the quality of their sleep. Not surprisingly, those who followed a healthy lifestyle had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, but when healthy habits were combined with a good night's sleep, the benefits were even greater - up to an 83 percent lower risk of fatal cardiovascular events. 

"The public health impact of sufficient sleep duration, in addition to the traditional healthy lifestyle factors, could be substantial," the authors wrote.

Of course, getting a good night's sleep is not always that easy. There are some steps older adults can take to improve the quality of their rest. According to the Society of Certified Senior Advisors, there are a number of factors that could come into play. For instance, certain medications can interrupt sleep patterns, and not getting enough exercise or physical activity can also make it difficult for seniors to fall asleep. Older adults should also watch what they eat as high-fat foods have been shown to harm the quality of rest.