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Too Little Sleep Linked to Higher Stroke Risk

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Getting enough sleep each night is obviously vital to your health and well-being, but new research reveals that it may be even more important for older adults. According to a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham's School of Medicine, middle-age and older adults that get less than 6 hours of sleep per night are at a fourfold greater risk of stroke.

Adults in the study were not overweight and did not suffer from other sleep-related conditions such as sleep apnea, both of which are related to a higher risk of stroke. The study uncovered the fact that when the body does not get enough sleep, it reacts in strange and dramatic ways. For example, people who did not get enough sleep experienced bodily inflammation, increases in blood pressure, and the release of certain hormones related to stress. In total, the researchers looked at a total of 56,000 individuals that were part of a larger study analyzing the possible links between geographical and racial factors and stroke.

While the study uncovered an important link between too little sleep and stroke risk for middle-age and older adults, the study authors stress that sleep and stroke is not a cause-and-effect relationship. Rather, there appears to be a possible mechanism related to cortisol, the stress hormone, that may be higher in people that get less than 6 hours of sleep per night. Overall, to lower your risk of stroke doctors recommend that you control your blood pressure, eat a low-calorie, balanced diet, exercise, not smoke, not drink heavily, have regular doctor checkups and listen to your doctor's advice on keeping your heart healthy, in addition to making sure to get enough sleep.