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Heart Attacks, Seasonal Time Changes Linked


The 2008 U.S. presidential campaign is over, and the candidates and campaign workers from both parties can finally get some rest. Doctor’s say catching up on much needed sleep is essential to your overall health. But a new study is further proof of the relationship between lack of sleep and heart disease. VOA's Melinda Smith explains.

Seventy countries around the world observe some form of daylight saving time.

That means more than one billion people somewhere around the globe are turning the clock forward in the spring season and turning it back in the fall.

Recently, a group of researchers in Sweden found that when people slept one extra hour after turning their clocks back, the rate of heart attacks decreased by five percent.

Dr. Virend Somers is a cardiologist with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota: "It was a little surprising in terms of the magnitude of the effect," he said.

Previous studies had shown that sleep deprivation often raises blood pressure and triggers changes in hormone levels and blood sugar.

In addition to heart disease, lack of sleep has been associated with a number of other illnesses, such as cancer, diabetes and obesity.

Dr. Somers says the restorative power of one hour of extra sleep cannot be underestimated, "This is one example of the potential broad effects of sleep deprivation," he said.

The researchers point out that in the warmer months, when we turn our clocks forward and lose that hour of sleep, the rate of heart attacks goes up again by six percent.

Sleep helps heal the body.

Getting a good eight hours of sleep every night, they say, just might help reduce the risk of heart disease all year long.