Good quality sleep has been deemed as effective for heart health as such lifestyle choices as adopting a healthy diet and stopping smoking, according to the results of a new long-term study in the Netherlands. Researchers at the National Institute for Public Health and Environment in Bilthoven and Wageningen University followed over 14,000 people for more than ten years, tracking their health quality - in particular heart disease and strokes. All of the participants were given guidance on four key lifestyle recommendations, relating to exercise, diet, alcohol consumption and smoking. At the end of the study, around 600 had experienced one of the conditions, and 129 had died as a result. It was found that those who had taken the lifestyle advice on board were less likely to be among those who died – lowering the risk of heart disease by 57% and stroke by 67%.
However researchers found that when the traditional four recommendations were added to good quality sleep the benefits were significantly improved further – 65% and 83% lowered risk respectively. The findings have prompted sleep quality to be included in the lifestyle recommendations.
"The main message of the study is that we need to consider sleep as an important factor for health," Professor Grethe S Tell from Bergen University told BBC News, commenting on the findings. "From a public health point of view we should encourage people to get enough sleep and like all other healthy lifestyle factors this needs to be taught at home."
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