Saturday, April 21, 2018
Health

How'd you sleep? Your heart may depend on the answer

ST. PETERSBURG

How did you sleep last night?

The answer may say as much about your heart health as do factors such as weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and whether you smoke or have diabetes.

Even if you don't snore or have sleep apnea, not sleeping well most nights, even for a few weeks or months, can take its toll on your heart.

"Five, 10 years ago, I didn't talk about sleep problems with my patients," said Dr. Kevin Garner, chief of cardiology at St. Anthony's Hospital in St. Petersburg. "Now we've learned sleep apnea, chronic insomnia, disturbed and poor quality sleep all have a dramatic effect on the heart and have to be taken very, very seriously."

Chip Levick, a patient of Garner, snored for years but never thought much about it. "The kids always joked about it," said the 57-year-old St. Petersburg man. But a few years ago when he was in the hospital for surgery, doctors discovered Levick had atrial fibrillation, a dangerously abnormal heart beat.

"I didn't know I had it," he said. "I couldn't feel anything different, which is kind of scary."

Garner ordered a sleep study and found that Levick had severe sleep apnea. It wasn't the kind caused by an obstruction in the throat, but by a neurological problem in which the brain sometimes forgets to tell him to breath during sleep.

"That apnea caused significant changes in the heart that set him up for atrial fibrillation," said Garner. "Now, I routinely get sleep studies on A fib patients. Apnea is one of their primary health problems."

Most people know it's important to watch blood pressure and cholesterol, exercise, limit alcohol, maintain a healthy body weight, control diabetes and not smoke for optimal heart health. But even if you do all those things, poor sleep can be as an independent risk factor for heart disease.

Some experts believe getting the proper amount of good quality sleep is the most important controllable risk factor for heart disease prevention. "I think it should be number one. It's extremely important," said Dr. William Kohler, medical director of the Florida Sleep Institute in Spring Hill and a spokesman for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

"Lack of sleep or getting poor quality sleep can lead to high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, obesity, all these things that affect the heart."

Kohler said poor sleep affects every system in the body and can also be associated with cancer, depression, irritability, digestive disorders, learning and concentration problems. "We've taken sleep for granted for far too long," he said.

Without adequate sleep, the body — and the heart in particular — remains in a state of stress, as though it's constantly on high alert. That creates a chronic cascade of unhealthy metabolic changes and systemic inflammation that elevates blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose.

"When that goes on for weeks and weeks or years and years," said Garner, "it essentially stimulates everything you don't want to go wrong with the heart. It has a big effect on heart disease risk and stroke."

The average amount of sleep most people need is eight hours a night. Some perform well on less — former Bucs coach Jon Gruden famously insisted he needed just four or five.

How do you know when you've had enough sleep? You should wake up feeling refreshed and ready to jump out of bed in the morning, with a positive attitude, the ability to think clearly and perform well at work. You shouldn't yawn a lot or feel that you need a nap.

"There's enormous variation in sleep needs," said Kohler. "Some very creative people only need a few hours a night. Others will need nine hours."

Shift workers are at particular risk for problems related to too little or poor quality sleep. He said they need to pay particular attention to practicing habits conducive to getting good sleep. Keep lights bright if possible at work at night; wear dark glasses when you drive home on sunny days; create a cool, dark, quiet place to sleep at home.

If you're not sure whether you're getting enough sleep, he suggests keeping a log and writing down how much you sleep, and how well you function during the day.

Just don't ignore sleep problems. Levick now uses a C-pap machine to prevent sleep apnea and takes medication to control high blood pressure and A fib.

He had trouble at first with the C-pap machine, but found success with one that fits the nose rather than using a mask.

"I now fall asleep almost immediately and I sleep very sound,'' he said.

Contact Irene Maher at [email protected]

Comments
Do not eat any romaine lettuce, the CDC warns

Do not eat any romaine lettuce, the CDC warns

Public health officials are now telling consumers to avoid all types of romaine lettuce because of an E. coli outbreak linked to the vegetable that has spread to at least 16 states and sickened at least 60 people, including eight inmates at an Alask...
Published: 04/20/18
Florida hits a milestone: More than 100,000 people are registered to use medical marijuana here

Florida hits a milestone: More than 100,000 people are registered to use medical marijuana here

Florida has hit a milestone of sorts as it slowly moves toward wider availability of medical marijuana.The number of patients in the state who are registered to use the substance has surpassed 100,000 for the first time, according to Florida Departme...
Published: 04/20/18
Florida Hospital Carrollwood spending $17.5 million to expand emergency department

Florida Hospital Carrollwood spending $17.5 million to expand emergency department

Florida Hospital Carrollwood is expanding its emergency department. The hospital, 7171 North Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa, is spending $17.5 million to add 15 new private treatment rooms, new pediatric rooms and waiting areas, and new technology, acco...
Published: 04/18/18
Barbara Bush’s end-of-life decision stirs debate over ‘comfort care’

Barbara Bush’s end-of-life decision stirs debate over ‘comfort care’

As she nears death at age 92, former first lady Barbara Bush’s announcement that she is seeking "comfort care" is shining a light — and stirring debate — on what it means to stop trying to fight terminal illness.Bush, the wife of former President Geo...
Published: 04/17/18
Preparing for the worst, staffers at Johns Hopkins All Children’s learn through simulation

Preparing for the worst, staffers at Johns Hopkins All Children’s learn through simulation

When the patient got violent, Dr. Michelle Hidalgo didn’t have time to think. She had to react. The woman was moving strangely and seemed erratic. Hidalgo had to make a tough call — it was time to physically restrain her for everyone’s safety.Then th...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18

Lung cancer patients live longer with immune therapy

The odds of survival can greatly improve for people with the most common type of lung cancer if, along with the usual chemotherapy, they are also given a drug that activates the immune system, a major new study has shown.The findings should change me...
Published: 04/16/18
Thousands of pounds of prepackaged salad mixes may have been tainted with E. coli, officials say

Thousands of pounds of prepackaged salad mixes may have been tainted with E. coli, officials say

A Pennsylvania food manufacturer is recalling 8, 757 pounds of ready-to-eat salad products following an E. coli outbreak that has spread to several states and sickened dozens of people.Fresh food Manufacturing Co., based in Freedom, Pennsylvania, is ...
Published: 04/15/18
St. Anthony’s Cancer Center installs bell dedicated to survivors

St. Anthony’s Cancer Center installs bell dedicated to survivors

ST. PETERSBURGSister Mary McNally, vice president of mission at St. Anthony’s Hospital, stood in front of a room of cancer survivors to unveil a silver bell surrounded by butterfly stickers mounted to the wall of the Cancer Center lobby. "So often pe...
Published: 04/13/18
Hand dryers could leave your hands dirtier than you think

Hand dryers could leave your hands dirtier than you think

Washing your hands after you use the bathroom is a good idea. But using a public dryer could undo all that hard work, according to a new study.A study, published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, examined 36 men’s and women’s bat...
Published: 04/13/18
Meek and Mighty Triathlon draws the young (siblings who are 7, 9 and 11) and not so young

Meek and Mighty Triathlon draws the young (siblings who are 7, 9 and 11) and not so young

The annual St. Anthony’s Triathlon has for years attracted elite athletes from around the world, making the St. Petersburg race one of the premier triathlon events in the country. There’s a big incentive to run fast, swim hard and be the best on a bi...
Published: 04/13/18