Poor sleep can be deadly for older women

It's amazing how quickly we accept it.

We know we need more sleep. Just about all of us do -- yet most of us not only don't get it, but we start to consider five or six hours a night to be "normal."

It's not normal. It's dangerous.

And ladies, if you're getting six hours of sleep per night or less, you could be setting yourself up for a heart attack or stroke.

The latest research finds a direct link between sleep levels and cardiovascular risk in older women, especially during and after menopause.

This wasn't one of those studies to find a loose association, either.

It went right to the heart of the matter, examining one of the most critical measures of heart health: the arteries.

Using ultrasound, researchers looked for signs of the ugly plaque buildup in blood vessels that can lead to thicker artery walls.

Thicker walls are great this time of year in your home if you live in Hurricane Country -- but they're terrible in your arteries, where they can lead to the blockages that can trigger a serious or even deadly cardiovascular problem.

The more sleep you get, the less likely you'll have those dangerous buildups.

The benefits weren't infinite. In fact, they maxed out at seven hours, which is a reasonable goal for a decent night of sleep.

But that also means less than seven hours will lead to more buildups and thicker walls, with the biggest risks in older women who get six hours or less per night.

There could be any number of reasons for the link, starting with the fact that poor sleep generally means higher levels of stress hormones, blood pressure and inflammation.

The hormonal changes after menopause can also make it tougher to sleep well and tougher for you body to fight inflammation.

It's a double-whammy that can slam you right in the heart -- so if you haven't been getting all the shuteye you need each night, it's time to get back to basics.

It's time to get back to sleep.

If you've been suffering with a sleep problem after menopause, I know that sounds easier said than done.

If you're past "the change," make sure to get your hormone levels tested. If they're a little low, you don't need to turn to the dangerous Big Pharma hormone therapy drugs. Instead, I recommend natural bioidentical hormones, which are custom-made to match what's in your body.

Work closely with a holistic medical doctor.