Communion Of Dreams

Mincemeat mice play puppets all the time.
December 24, 2008, 1:52 pm
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Health, Hospice, NPR, Predictions, Preparedness, Science, Sleep, Survival

No, I don’t know what it means.

It was one of those things I woke up thinking in the middle of the night, a week or so ago. So I wrote it down.

Why did I wake up in the middle of the night, thinking such a thing?  Good question.  It was about 3:00, the usual time I would wake and go check on Martha Sr the last couple of years of her life.  And even though it’s been almost a year since her death, I still wake about that time fairly often.  I try and get back to sleep, and usually succeed.  Because I know sleep is important to my recovery.

I’ve mentioned several times the steps I am taking to get my health under control, and why.  For the last six weeks now my blood pressure has been stable in the 145/85 range.   Still high, and next month when I see my doctor we may need to tweak my dosages again, but about 90/40 points better than it was three months ago.  The meds I’m taking, a beta blocker and a calcium channel blocker, are doing their jobs and helping me detox from my cortisol and norepinephrine overloads, but I’m not past it all yet.  My waking at night, even occasional bouts of insomnia, are evidence of that.

And researchers have added another level of understanding to just how dangerous this sleep disruption is:

Morning Edition December 24, 2008 · The human heart requires a certain amount of sleep every night to stay healthy, and that link between sleep and heart health is stronger than researchers suspected, according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

* * *

When they put it all together, the researchers got a surprising result. Among these healthy, middle-aged volunteers, those who averaged five or fewer hours of sleep had a much bigger incidence of silent heart disease.

“Twenty-seven percent of them developed coronary artery calcification over the five years of follow-up,” Lauderdale says. “Whereas among the persons who slept seven hours or more, on average, only 6 percent developed coronary artery calcification.”

In other words, the sleep-deprived people had 4.5 times the risk of heart disease — and that’s after researchers subtracted out the effects of other known coronary risk factors, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking.

It remains to be seen why too-little sleep is linked to clogged coronaries. Maybe it has something to do with stress hormones. Lauderdale says other studies have shown that depriving people of sleep raises their levels of cortisol, one stress hormone.

I don’t yet have any indication of serious heart disease.  The preliminary checks from visiting the doctor over the last few months haven’t turned anything up, but she has been mostly concerned with getting my blood pressure under control.  We’ll be doing a more complete exam in the new year, now that this other issue is less of an immediate concern.

That’s not to say that I expect that we’ll find anything.  But neither would it surprise me if we did, given what else I know about what the stresses I’ve placed my body under over the last five years.  I’ve been my own puppet, dancing at all hours.

Maybe that’s what it means.

Jim Downey

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