Stroke or heart infarct?

According to a recent study by Daghlas and colleagues1, compared to sleeping 6 to 9 h/night, short sleepers have a 20% higher risk of having a heart attack; but, if you are a long sleeper (i.e., sleeping >9h/night), than your chances are even worse, because your risk increases to 34%. Even though the researchers don’t know the underlying cause for such susceptibilities, they claim sleeping too much or too little boosts inflammation in the body, which is associated with the development of heart disease. If you have a genetic predisposition for heart disease, this study found that sleeping between 6-9h, actually reduces your risk of having a heart attack by 18%, which is actually very good news, since not only diet and exercise can help you keep your heart healthy. More and more data, supports the evidence that we should consider sleep to be an adjustable and controllable risk factor for our good heath status2.

Speaking of diet, another study published recently in the Journal of the American Heart Association by Hyunju Kim and his team3, showed that healthy plant‐based diets, which are higher in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, tea, and coffee, and lower in animal foods, were associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality and all‐cause mortality. Of course, they didn’t explore if the quality of plant foods (either healthy plant foods, or less-healthy plant foods) within the “framework of plant‐based diets” would be associated with cardiovascular disease and all‐cause mortality in the general population.

But, what is intriguing is that, another recent study by Tammy Tong and colleagues4, examined the associations of vegetarianism with risks of ischemic heart disease (i.e., coronary artery disease) and stroke. The results of this study showed that vegetarians had 20% higher rates of total stroke than meat eaters – which was equivalent to 3x more cases of stroke over 10 years; and, the associations for stroke did not soothe after adjustments to other disease risk factors. As the authors of the study say, vegetarian and vegan diets have become increasingly popular in recent years, partly due to perceived health benefits, as well as concerns about the environment and animal welfare; but, what the evidence suggests, is that vegetarians might have different disease risks compared with non-vegetarians. The study group of vegetarians and vegans in this cohort had lower circulating levels of several nutrients (e.g., vitamin B12, vitamin D, essential amino acids, and long chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids), and differences in some of these nutritional factors could contribute to the increased stroke risk. Not only that, but a number of studies in Japan5, 6, showed that individuals with very low intake of animal products, also had an increased incidence and mortality from hemorrhagic and total stroke, implying that some factors connected with animal food intake might be protective for stroke. 

Its like Yin and Yang from ancient Chinese philosophy. Rather than opposing, or standing at the sides, our health and life is made of complementary forces that interact to form a dynamic system. It’s all about balance and balancing the sides (and diets).

All in life is balance
Balancing life’s way


1.         Daghlas I, Dashti HS, Lane J, Aragam KG, Rutter MK, Saxena R and Vetter C. Sleep Duration and Myocardial Infarction. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2019;74:1304-1314.

2.         Tobaldini E, Fiorelli EM, Solbiati M, Costantino G, Nobili L and Montano N. Short sleep duration and cardiometabolic risk: from pathophysiology to clinical evidence. Nat Rev Cardiol. 2019;16:213-224.

3.         Kim H, Caulfield LE, Garcia-Larsen V, Steffen LM, Coresh J and Rebholz CM. Plant-Based Diets Are Associated With a Lower Risk of Incident Cardiovascular Disease, Cardiovascular Disease Mortality, and All-Cause Mortality in a General Population of Middle-Aged Adults. J Am Heart Assoc. 2019;8:e012865.

4.         Tong TYN, Appleby PN, Bradbury KE, Perez-Cornago A, Travis RC, Clarke R and Key TJ. Risks of ischaemic heart disease and stroke in meat eaters, fish eaters, and vegetarians over 18 years of follow-up: results from the prospective EPIC-Oxford study. BMJ. 2019;366:l4897.

5.         Kinjo Y, Beral V, Akiba S, Key T, Mizuno S, Appleby P, Yamaguchi N, Watanabe S and Doll R. Possible protective effect of milk, meat and fish for cerebrovascular disease mortality in Japan. J Epidemiol. 1999;9:268-74.

6.         Sauvaget C, Nagano J, Allen N, Grant EJ and Beral V. Intake of animal products and stroke mortality in the Hiroshima/Nagasaki Life Span Study. Int J Epidemiol. 2003;32:536-43.