Helping with Blood Pressure Control

This is probably going to be a good-news, bad-news story for many people.

Two studies, both reported in ScienceDaily, point to small behavioral changes that could help manage blood pressure.

Study #1: Napping

The first study found that people who take a daytime nap for at least 45 minutes during the day have lower average blood pressure after psychological stress compared with people who don’t take some time for a little sleep.

Compared with 50 years ago, people today sleep an average of 2 hours less per night…with potential long-term health effects, including cardiovascular disease and hypertension (also known as high blood pressure). Sleep has a generally restorative effect on the body, and sleep during the day is no exception. According to the researchers, Ryan Brindle and Sarah Conklin, Ph.D., from Allegheny College in Pennsylvania:

“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.”

In other words, science doesn’t know exactly how it works, but a daytime nap of 45 to 60 minutes may help lower blood pressure and level the sleep playing field, so that even if we don’t get a full night’s sleep, we can stay healthy.

Study #2: Sweet Drinks

An article published in the journal Hypertention: Journal of the American Heart Association reports that adults who drink soda, fruit drinks, and other sugar-sweetened beverages may be unwittingly raising their blood pressure.

For every extra sugar-sweetened beverage drunk per day, systolic blood pressure (the first number in the blood pressure reading) rose by 1.6 mm Hg), and diastolic blood pressure (the second number) rose by 0.8 mm Hg. This was true for drinks sweetened with sugar and/or high-fructose corn syrup.

The effect of increased blood pressure was even greater among people who also consumed high levels of salt, or sodium. According to Ian Brown, Ph.D.:

“One possible mechanism for sugar-sweetened beverages and fructose increasing blood pressure levels is a resultant increase in the level of uric acid in the blood that may in turn lower the nitric oxide required to keep the blood vessels dilated. Sugar consumption also has been linked to enhanced sympathetic nervous system activity and sodium retention.”

Again, this basically translates into “we don’t know exactly why it happens, but it does.”

So in our good-news, bad-news research day, people who want to control their high blood pressure might want to cut down on the number of sweetened beverages they drink…and maybe take a daily nap. Researchers say that your heart will thank you!


To read the full article on daytime napping, click here: Napping May Help With Blood Pressure Management

To read the full article on sweet drinks, click here: Sugar-Sweetened Drinks Associated With Higher Blood Pressure

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