Older Adults Should Stay Active, Avoid Long Naps and Oversleeping to Avoid Strokes, Study Says

A new study conducted in China, and published by the medical journal Neurology, indicatespeople who sleep for a longer amount of time up their stroke risk by 85 percent.

In addition, those who take regular 90-minute naps increase their risk of stroke by 25 percent, versus brief-30 minute naps or avoiding naps entirely. Disturbed sleep sleep also raised stroke risk by 29 percent, according to the study.

Researcher Dr. Xiaomin Zhang, head of the team who compiled the study and professor in the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China, told the Associated Press,"people, especially middle-aged and older adults, should pay more attention to their time spent in bed attempting to sleep and midday napping, and sleep quality, because appropriate duration of sleep and nap, and maintaining good sleep quality may complement other behavioral interventions for preventing stroke."

Dr. Zhang cautions that the study only shows an association between long periods of sleep and a stoke, but does not prove that napping and long periods of sleep cause strokes.

Other studies have pointed out a link between excessive or poor sleep and high cholesterol and obesity, which leads to increased stroke risk. Those risks—including smoking and high blood pressure—were factored into Dr. Zhang's team's data.

Dr. Zhang's study encapsulated data from 31,750 people living in China with a median age of 62. After six years of self-reported follow-ups and physical examinations, 1,500 of the participants were found to have suffered a stroke during that ensuing period of time.

Dr. Zhang noted that the study is limited, as, since it was conducted mainly on elderly patients, the advice within it may apply only to the elderly.

"If you sleep so much, you're actually decreasing your activity and a reduction in activity leads to a number of things that increase your risk of obesity, poor sugar control and blood pressure being out of whack," said Neurologist Dr. Salman Azhar, director of stroke at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City to The Associated Press.

Activity seems to be the key, according to Azhar. If activity is limited and amount of sleep increases, so does stroke risk.

A new Chinese study has found a link between sleeping long hours and eventual stroke risk. Tero Vesalainen/Getty

Dr. Zhang's data matches data published in 2015 in Neurology study. In that study, 10,000 people ages 42 to 81 were followed for almost 10 years. Among those who slept for longer periods of time, 46 percent of them had a higher than average risk to eventually suffer a stoke.