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article imageJames Gandolfini's death raises important health questions

By Michael Essany     Jun 21, 2013 in Health
"You snooze you lose" is an adage with which we are all familiar. But scientists and medical researchers are proving with frightening examples tonight that it’s the people that don't snooze who are at greatest risk of losing something - their health.
Following the tragic loss of 51-year-old Sopranos' star James Gandolfini to an apparent heart attack on Wednesday, medical experts around the nation are optimistic that the actor's untimely passing will raise awareness about cardiac health and what can be done to curb the alarmingly high rate of heart attacks today, particularly in the United States.
According to the American Heart Association, 360,000 cardiac arrests are assessed by emergency medical services in the United States every year. The AHA says that more than 700,000 individuals will have a new or recurrent heart attack this year.
Although smoking, obesity, and a host of other lifestyle choices can exacerbate one's chances of suffering a cardiac episode, one of the least understood components of heart health remains sleep. In fact, individuals who sleep for seven or fewer hours each night are twice as likely as an adequately rested person to suffer a heart attack.
Doctors and other health professionals are now pointing to the loss of Gandolfini, who reportedly suffered from health complications born of weight, sleep, and breathing issues, as an opportunity to learn more about heart health and the simplest steps at-risk Americans can take to improve theirs. Fortunately, one of the first steps, they argue, is also the easiest. Get more sleep.
Insufficient sleep has been scientifically linked to a wide array of health problems, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and even cancer.
"From infancy to old age, the effects of inadequate sleep can profoundly affect memory, learning, creativity, productivity and emotional stability, as well as your physical health," The New York Times reported Monday. "Poor sleep is also a risk factor for depression and substance abuse."
During the last decade, the most comprehensive and enduring medical research about sleep in human history was made possible by technology. And now, researchers contend, this same technology may now provide desperately needed solutions for chronic sleep deprivation and related disorders.
Just this week, in fact, Sleep Genius debuted in Apple's App Store after clinical trials showed the neuroscience-based app is 77% effective in helping subjects get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer.
“Our exclusive sleep algorithms and scientifically composed music ease your brain into its natural sleep rhythms,” say the makers of app, which was inspired by years of extensive research helping NASA astronauts experience more restful sleep in outer space.
Dr. Kamran Fallahpour, a clinical psychologist and neuroscientist at Brain Resource Center, says Sleep Genius is not only a viable representation of the powerful health resources mobile technology has engendered, this application in particular is a "completely natural and effective sleep program based on the principles of neuroscience. It engages the auditory system, vestibular system, and the brain's arousal system to improve sleep regulation."
Ultimately, the medical community advises at large, addressing and solving sleep-connected health issues should be of vital importance to individuals taking a second look at their heart health. And the sudden passing of Gandolfini yesterday is prompting many to do just that tonight.
To learn more about what it takes to get a good night's sleep, click here for a list of helpful tips from the American Heart Association.
More about James gandolfini, the sopranos, tony soprano, American heart association, Sleep deprivation
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