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Not getting enough sleep? You’re hurting your heart, new studies say

Getting a good night's sleep – usually between six to eight hours – can help take care of your heart and lower the risk of strokes, according to three studies.

The research was revealed last week during the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology.

The first study involved a meta-analysis of 11 studies featuring more than 1 million adults conducted by the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Centre in Athens, Greece.

They found people who slept fewer than six hours or longer than eight hours had a greater risk of developing or dying from coronary artery disease or stroke.

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"More research is needed to clarify exactly why, but we do know that sleep influences biological processes like glucose metabolism, blood pressure and inflammation – all of which have an impact on cardiovascular disease," said Dr. Epameinondas Fountas, the study's author who works for the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Centre, in a statement.

Two other studies found people who fail to get enough sleep at night face a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and hardened arteries.

An observational study from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden found men in their 50s who slept five or fewer hours a night had double the risk for a major cardiovascular event by age 71 and were more likely to have high blood pressure or diabetes.

"The magnitude of increased cardiovascular risk associated with insufficient sleep is similar to that of smoking or having diabetes at age 50," said author Moa Bengtsson in a statement.

A separate study associated people who slept less than six hours a night or woke up several times during the night with a higher risk of hardened arteries.

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Overall, many Americans still struggle to get enough sleep. According to a 2016 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a third of Americans don't get enough sleep. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend people get at least seven hours of sleep a night.

A good night's sleep does more than keep the heart healthy. It can also lead to fewer mental lapses.

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