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Circadian rhythms linked to sleep patterns, heart activity

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Terri Dee

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(Illinois News Connection) This is American Heart Month and new findings published by the American Heart Association say irregular sleeping patterns -- over years, weeks or even days -- can affect a person's heart health.

The body's reactions to physical, mental and behavioral changes within a 24-hour cycle influence its internal clock or circadian rhythm.

Dr. Sandeep Dube, cardiologist and physician executive for the Community Heart and Vascular Hospital in Indianapolis, said in the study, researchers found a stable circadian rhythm can mean a 40 percent to 60 percent lower risk of heart disease.

"If the participants had irregular circadian heart rhythms and had inefficient sleep, they actually increased the risk of heart disease by more than threefold," Dube explained.

The Illinois Department of Health reported nearly 27,000 residents died from heart disease in 2021.

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Dube added stress and a lack of quality sleep can also increase the risk for other chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, arthritis and cancer. According to the report, heart failure affects almost 6 million Americans age 20 and older. The number is projected to increase to 8 million by 2030.

Other influences on the circadian rhythm are the amounts of exposure to daylight and darkness, and people's physical activity, as well as the types and quantities of food they eat. Dube recommended focusing on a healthy diet and doing 30 to 40 minutes of daily moderate exercise, such as walking, four to five days a week.

"We, as cardiologists, we have been aware that for a long time people who don't eat right, don't do physical activity right, whose sleep at night is disturbed, they do have more heart disease," Dube noted.

He added creating regular, healthy routines can lead to a healthier life. The National Sleep Foundation advised putting devices away an hour before bedtime and establishing a consistent routine for winding down at day's end as keys to getting a good night's rest.