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Insomnia May Raise Risk of Heart Attack, Stroke
Date:11/5/2012

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The researchers concluded that insomnia was associated with an increased risk of future cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke.

The study is scheduled to be presented Sunday at an American Heart Association scientific meeting, in Los Angeles.

"It's an interesting finding and builds upon prior research demonstrating increased risk for heart attack associated with insomnia of this order of magnitude," Fonarow said. "This study adds new information, that there's a strong relationship with stroke as well."

But Fonarow said the study doesn't suggest clinicians should be more aggressive in treating insomnia. "Working to treat insomnia is good for quality of life but it's too soon to say treating insomnia will decrease your chance of [developing] heart disease."

Dr. Aparajitha Verma, medical director of the Methodist Hospital Comprehensive Sleep Disorders Program, in Houston, said she is concerned that the researchers didn't distinguish between different types of insomnia, which can make a difference in understanding the possible association with cardiovascular disease.

"We don't know whether these people didn't sleep long enough or had fragmented sleep, or difficulty falling asleep. When they clump everyone together as [having] insomnia, they also don't say how many may have had sleep apnea, which is very closely associated with increased risk of coronary vascular disease," Verma said.

While scientists don't fully understand why sleep deprivation can have such a profound impact on cardiovascular disease, it is thought that it could be that the lack of sleep weakens the immune systems, triggering an "inflammatory cascade," Verma explained.

Her advice? "People have to make sleep a priority," she said.

While the study found an association between sleep problems and heart attack risk, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship. Research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary un
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