A Day Nap Helps Blood Pressure Management

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A daytime sleep could have cardiovascular benefits according to new research by Ryan Brindle and Sarah Conklin, PhD, from Allegheny College in Pennsylvania in the US. Their study, looking at the effect of a daytime nap on cardiovascular recovery following a stress test, found that those participants who slept for at least 45 minutes during the day had lower average blood pressure after psychological stress than those who did not sleep. The work is published in Springer’s journal International Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

Long work schedules, shift work, increased anxiety and a greater use of the internet and television late at night – all characteristics of our modern society – have had an impact on nocturnal sleep. We no longer sleep as long as we used to: The average sleep duration is now almost 2 hours shorter per night than it was 50 years ago. And this could be impacting our long-term health. For example, sleeping less has been linked to an increased risk of hypertension and cardiovascular problems generally.

Brindle and Conklin’s experiment examined how daytime sleep might influence cardiovascular recovery after a mental stress test in the laboratory. They split 85 healthy university students into two groups: One group was allotted a 60-minute interval during the day when they had the opportunity to sleep; the other group did not sleep during the day. The researchers also asked the students to complete questionnaires assessing sleep quality and complete a cardiovascular reactivity task, involving a complex mental subtracting exercise. Brindle and Conklin measured the students’ blood pressure and pulse rates at regular intervals throughout the experiment.

They found that daytime sleep seemed to have a restorative effect with students in the sleep condition reporting lower scores of sleepiness than those who did not sleep. Although blood pressure and pulse rates rose in both groups between baseline and the stress phase, during the recovery phase, those who had napped had significantly lower average blood pressure readings than those who had not slept. These results show that sleeping between 45 and 60 minutes during the day appears to facilitate blood pressure recovery after a mental stress task in the laboratory.

Brindle and Conklin conclude: “Our findings suggest that daytime sleep may offer cardiovascular benefit by accelerating cardiovascular recovery following mental stressors. 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.”

6 Surprising Ways to Heart Longevity

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February is Heart Health month, and by now, you’ve read all about the heart-healthy benefits of good fats, whole grains, and stress reduction — but did you know that you can protect your heart by flossing your teeth or topping your toast with marmalade? Read on to find out more surprising ways to keep your heart pumping strong!

Take this advice to heart, but if you have heart issues, don’t stop taking your medications; always consult with your physician any time you begin a new health regime.

1. Floss Your Teeth, Save Your Heart

Your dentist has been telling you for years about the importance of flossing. It turns out that flossing not only protects your teeth and gums, but also potentially your heart. For a long time, observational studies have found that people with periodontal disease have significantly higher odds of developing cardiovascular disease. While experts are not sure exactly why taking care of your teeth is linked with better heart health, they speculate that bacteria from your mouth may stick to the fatty plaques in your bloodstream, directly contributing to blockages. Another theory is that these oral bacteria travel through your body, triggering inflammation that causes the blood cells to swell, then narrowing an artery. While more studies are needed to confirm the connection, it’s never a bad idea to floss once a day!

2. A Nap a Day Keeps Heart Disease Away

One of the best ways to lower stress on your heart is to take a nap during the middle of the day. Chinese medicine has long observed that, in the body’s circadian rhythms, noontime is the peak hour for the heart. Therefore, Chinese doctors advise calming activities and rest at this time of day to maintain the health of the cardiovascular system. Researchers have found that men who napped at least thirty minutes a day were 30 percent less likely to develop heart disease than those who didn’t nap. A siesta is a sign of wisdom, not laziness!

3. Pets: Heartwarming and Heart Protecting

Getting a pet is a great boon to heart health. A study reported in the Medical Journal of Australia found that, in general, pet owners have lower blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels than people who do not own pets. Having a cat companion could cut your heart attack risk by nearly one third! According to a study by the Minnesota Stroke Institute, which followed over 4,000 cat owners during a 10-year period, being a feline owner can significantly decrease the chance of dying from heart disease. Another study, published in the American Journal of Cardiology, found that male dog owners were significantly less likely to die within one year after a heart attack than those who did not own a dog. Man’s best friend helps your heart in yet another way — all those daily walks add up to real cardiovascular benefits.

4. Peel Away Cholesterol with Orange Rind

Plaque in your arteries narrows the artery over time, impairing blood flow and dramatically increasing your risk for heart disease. Here’s a simple way to keep your arteries healthy: grate a little orange peel into your food regularly. In Chinese medicine, orange peel has been traditionally used to improve digestion of fatty and rich foods, and it is often found in traditional Chinese dishes with red meat. It turns out that orange peel may actually lower cholesterol better than some current medications, and without the side effects. Studies show that compounds called polymethosylated flavones (PMFs), found in pigments of orange and tangerines, reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) without altering the level of good cholesterol (HDL). Who would guess that orange-peel laden marmalade would also be good for lowering LDL cholesterol?

5. Celery: Just Juice It

High blood pressure is often the root cause of stroke, heart disease, and kidney failure. A time-tested Chinese remedy for this condition is fresh celery juice, which can be made with a blender or a juicer. Drinking one to two large glasses a day can help prevent high blood pressure or restore it to normal in those who already have high blood pressure. Studies have found that celery stalks are packed with more than a dozen anti-inflammatory agents, including apigenin, a cox2-inhibiting compound similar to some anti-inflammatory drugs.

6. Heart Health with Hawthorn Berries

Widely used since the seventeenth century by European herbalists, the hawthorn berry was traditionally considered a digestive aid for heavy meats and rich foods, as well as a potent activator of the circulatory system. Today it is used to cleanse the blood of plaque and other toxins. Recent European studies of this bioflavanoid-rich plant have confirmed its cardiovascular benefits, including lowering blood pressure during exertion, strengthening the heart muscle, and improving blood flow to the heart and throughout the body. Additionally, hawthorn has also been shown to lower cholesterol and balance blood sugar. You can make hawthorn berry tea or take it in supplement form. Available in powder, capsules, and liquid extracts, a typical dosage is up to 500 mg daily.

Bonus Tip: If you want to take your heart health one step further, you can try taking tonic herbs that support a robust and open cardiovascular system, such as Super Clarity.

You can find many more ways to protect your heart and live to 100 in Secrets of Longevity: Hundreds of Ways to Live to Be 100, which is now available on Kindle. If you are interested in a lifestyle program, designed to transform your health and lengthen your years, check out my new book Secrets of Longevity 8-Week Program.

May you live long, live strong, and live happy!

Courtesy of Dr. Mao