A Norwegian study has found that people who have trouble drifting off to sleep may be at increased risk of heart failure.
The study, published in the European Heart Journal, followed more than 50,000 people for 11 years.
Scientists found those who suffered several nights of poor sleep were more likely to develop the condition, in which the heart fails to pump properly.
Experts say further research is needed to see if a lack of sleep causes heart failure or the link is more complex.
Scientists at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology looked at more than 50,000 people aged between 20 and 89. At the beginning of the study, none of them were known to have heart failure.
In this condition the muscles of the heart are often too out of shape to do their job properly – they may be too weak or too stiff to pump blood around the body at the right pressure.
People with the disorder may feel increasingly breathless and exhausted.
And as heart failure worsens, it can be difficult to get a full night’s rest – but the Norwegian study is one of few to investigate whether poor sleepers without the condition are at risk of getting it in later life.
A Norwegian study has found that people who have trouble drifting off to sleep may be at increased risk of heart failure
During the research, the participants were asked whether they had any difficulties getting to sleep or staying asleep and whether they felt fully restored after a night’s slumber.
People who had trouble falling asleep and remaining asleep each night were three times more likely to develop heart failure than those who reported no trouble sleeping.
Those who experienced substandard sleep that failed to leave them fully refreshed were also at risk.
And this link between a bad night’s sleep and heart failure remained true despite researchers taking smoking, obesity and other well known triggers of insomnia and heart problems into account.
The researchers say it is unclear exactly why poor sleep and heart failure are associated in this way.
Dr. Lars Erik Laugsand, lead author of the study, said: “We don’t know whether insomnia truly causes heart failure. But if it does, the good thing is it is a potentially treatable condition.
“So evaluating sleep problems might provide additional information in the prevention of heart failure.”
He suggests the lack of sleep may provoke harmful responses in the body.
“When you have insomnia your body releases stress hormones which in turn may effect the heart in a negative way,” he said.
The same team of researchers has previously reported a link between people prone to insomnia and heart attacks.
And diabetes, depression and poor brain function have all been linked to missing restful hours in bed.
Obese people can be physically healthy and fit and at no greater risk of heart disease or cancer than normal weight people, a new research found.
The key is being “metabolically fit”, meaning no high blood pressure, cholesterol or raised blood sugar, and exercising, according to experts.
Looking at data from over 43,000 US people they found that being overweight per se did not pose a big health risk.
The results are published in the European Heart Journal.
In the study at the University of South Carolina, more than a third of the participants were obese.
Of these 18,500, half were assessed as metabolically healthy after a physical examination and lab tests.
Obese people can be physically healthy and fit and at no greater risk of heart disease or cancer than normal weight people
This subset of metabolically healthy obese people who did not suffer from conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure, were generally fitter and exercised more than the other obese people.
And their risk of developing or dying from cardiovascular disease or cancer was identical to people of ideal weight and was half that of “metabolically less fit” obese people.
Lead researcher Dr. Francisco Ortega, who currently works at the University of Granada in Spain, said the findings show that getting more exercise can keep you healthier, even if you still carry a bit of extra weight.
“This research highlights once again the important role of physical fitness as a health marker.”
Most of the men and women in the study came from a similar background, meaning the results may not apply to everyone. They were mostly Caucasian, well educated, and worked in executive or professional positions.
Israeli scientists say they have managed to turn patients’ own skin cells into healthy heart muscle in the lab.
Ultimately they hope this stem cell therapy could be used to treat heart failure patients.
As the transplanted cells are from the individual patient this could avoid the problem of tissue rejection, they told the European Heart Journal.
Early tests in animals proved promising but the experimental treatment is still years from being used in people.
Experts have increasingly been using stem cells to treat a variety of heart problems and other conditions like diabetes, Parkinsons disease or Alzheimer’s.
Israeli scientists say they have managed to turn patients' own skin cells into healthy heart muscle in the lab
Stem cells are important because they have the ability to become different cell types, and scientists are working on developing ways to get them to repair or regenerate damaged organs or tissues.
Researchers are looking at ways of fixing the damaged heart muscle.
In the latest study, the team in Israel took skin cells from two men with heart failure and mixed the cells up with a cocktail of genes and chemicals in the lab to create the stem cell treatment.
The cells that they created were identical to healthy heart muscle cells. When these beating cells were transplanted into a rat, they started to make connections with the surrounding heart tissue.
Lead researcher Prof. Lior Gepstein, said: “What is new and exciting about our research is that we have shown that it’s possible to take skin cells from an elderly patient with advanced heart failure and end up with his own beating cells in a laboratory dish that are healthy and young – the equivalent to the stage of his heart cells when just born.”
The researchers say more work is needed before they can begin trials in humans.