Thursday, March 3, 2011

Napping May Help Keep Blood Pressure in Check

Despite stress, levels are lower for those who sleep a bit during the day, study finds.

A daytime nap of at least 45 minutes may help stressed-out people lower their blood pressure and protect their heart, a new study suggests.

The finding comes from a study that involved 85 healthy university students, divided into two groups. One group had an hour-long period during the day to sleep, and the others had no time to sleep. Both groups were given a mental stress test.

Blood pressure and pulse rates increased in both groups of students when they took the stress test, but the average blood pressure of those who slept for at least 45 minutes was significantly lower after the stress test than it was for those who did not sleep.

"Our findings suggest that daytime sleep may offer cardiovascular benefit by accelerating cardiovascular recovery following mental stressors," wrote the researchers, Ryan Brindle and Sarah Conklin of Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa.

"Further research is needed to explore the mechanism by which daytime sleep is linked with cardiovascular health and to evaluate daytime sleep as a recuperative and protective practice, especially for individuals with known cardiovascular disease risk and those with suboptimal sleep quality," they added.

The study is being published in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine (1).

On average, Americans get nearly two hours less sleep a night than they did 50 years ago, which could affect long-term health, according to background information in a journal news release on the study.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on sufficient sleep.

How Does High Blood Pressure Affect the Body? (2)

High blood pressure adds to the workload of the heart and arteries. The heart must pump harder and the arteries must carry blood that's moving under greater pressure. If high blood pressure continues for a long time, the heart and arteries may no longer work as well as they should. Other body organs, including the kidneys, eyes, and brain also may be affected.

People can live with hypertension for many years without having any symptoms. That's why high blood pressure is often called "the silent killer." Though a person may not have any symptoms, it doesn't mean that the high blood pressure isn't affecting the body.

Having high blood pressure puts a person at more risk for strokes, heart attacks, kidney failure, loss of vision, and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). In rare cases, severe hypertension can sometimes cause headaches, visual changes, dizziness, nosebleeds, and nausea.

Can I Prevent Hypertension? (2)

Here are some suggestions that can lessen your chances of developing high blood pressure and help keep you healthy in many other ways:

  • Maintain a normal weight for your height.
  • Exercise regularly. This can help prevent you from becoming overweight or help you in losing pounds if you need to. Exercise also helps keep your heart and blood vessels strong and healthy.
  • Eat a healthy diet that includes mostly whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Don't smoke. Smoking and high blood pressure are major risk factors for having a heart attack or stroke later in life.
  • Keep your stress levels in check. It may help to practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises.
  • Decrease your sodium (salt) intake. Consuming less sodium has been proven to help lower blood pressure in some people and may prevent some from developing high blood pressure in the first place. Salt is often found in breads, baked goods, and other processed/canned foods.
  • Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which is associated with high blood pressure.
  • Know your blood pressure. Have it checked regularly — although high blood pressure is more common in adults, it can occur at any age.

Date reviewed: August 2008

Source 1: International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, news release, March 1, 2011

Source 2: Yes “kidshealth” because high bllod pressure can occur at any age. Some teens may inherit the tendency toward higher blood pressure from one or both parents. Kids and teens who are obese are at a higher risk for hypertension.

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