Senior Citizens See Risk of Stroke Linked to
Insomnia Diminish with Age
The risk was highest - up to eight times - among
insomniacs 18-34 years old
April 9, 2014 – These is almost never good news
about health for senior citizens that relates to getting older. It is an
accepted truth that the older you get the higher your risk of health
problems. But there really is good news for seniors, especially those
who have problems sleeping, for a new study that finds the risk of
having a stroke is much higher in people with insomnia but this risk
shrinks as we get older.
The risk also seems to be far greater when insomnia
occurs as a young adult compared to those who are older, said
researchers who reviewed the randomly-selected health records of more
than 21,000 people with insomnia and 64,000 non-insomniacs in Taiwan.
The report on the new research appears in the
American Heart Association journal Stroke.
The researchers report:
Insomnia raised the likelihood of subsequent hospitalization
for stroke by 54 percent over four years.
The incidence of stroke was eight times higher among those
diagnosed with insomnia between 18-34 years old. Beyond age 35, the risk
also appeared to increase the risk of stroke in insomniacs.
“We feel strongly that individuals with chronic
insomnia, particularly younger persons, see their physician to have
stroke risk factors assessed and, when indicated, treated
appropriately,” said Ya-Wen Hsu, Ph.D., study author and an assistant
professor at Chia Nan University of Pharmacy and Science and the
Department of Medical Research at Chi-Mei Medical Center in Taiwan.
“Our findings also highlight the clinical
importance of screening for insomnia at younger ages. Treating insomnia
is also very important, whether by medication or cognitive therapy.”
The study is the first to try to quantify the risk
in a large population group and the first to assess if the risk of
stroke differs by insomnia subtypes, Hsu said.
Researchers divided participants - none of whom had
a previous diagnosis of stroke or sleep apnea - into different types of
In general, insomnia included -
difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep;
chronic or persistent insomnia lasting one to six months;
relapse insomnia with a return of insomnia after being diagnosed
free of disease for more than six months at any assessment point during
the four-year study; and
remission with a change from a diagnosis of insomnia to non-insomnia
at the subsequent time point.
During the four-year follow-up, 583 insomniacs and
962 non-insomniacs were admitted for stroke. Persistent insomniacs had a
higher three-year cumulative incidence of stroke compared to the other
participants in the remission group.
The mechanism linking insomnia to stroke is not
fully understood, but evidence shows that insomnia may alter
cardiovascular health via systematic inflammation, impaired glucose
tolerance, increased blood pressure or sympathetic hyperactivity. Some
behavioral factors (e.g., physical activity, diet, alcohol use and
smoking) and psychological factors like stress might affect the observed
The researchers said it’s unclear if the findings
also apply to people in other nations, but studies in other countries
have also pointed to a relationship between insomnia and stroke.
“Individuals should not simply accept insomnia as a
benign, although difficult, condition that carries no major health
risks,” Hsu said. “They should seek medical evaluation of other possible
risk factors that might contribute to stroke.”
Co-authors are Ming-Ping Wu, M.D., Ph.D.; Huey-Juan
Lin, M.D.; Shih-Feng Weng, Ph.D.;Chung-Han Ho, Ph.D.; and Jhi-Joung
Wang, M.D., Ph.D. Author disclosures and funding information are on the