Heart attack: Doing this during the day once or twice a week could slash your risk

Heart attack happens when a blockage in a person’s coronary artery causes part of their heart muscle to be starved of blood and oxygen. The symptoms can be sudden and severe, requiring immediate medical attention to limit the amount of damage being done the heart muscle. It is well understood that making healthy lifestyle decisions can help to lower a person’s risk of a heart attack. It may come as a surprise that doing a weekly activity may also lower the risk.

This association held true after taking account of potentially influential factors

According to new research published in the journal Heart, a daytime nap taken once or twice a week may lower the risk of having a heart attack/stroke. Although the findings revealed no such association emerged for either greater frequency or duration of naps.

Previous studies into the relationship between napping and heart health have failed to consider napping frequency, or focused purely on cardiovascular disease deaths, or compared regular nappers with those not opting for a mini siesta, said the researchers.

In a bid to try and address these issues, they looked at the association between napping frequency and average nap duration and the risk of fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular disease ‘events,’ such as heart attack, stroke, or heart failure, among 3462 randomly selected residents of Lausanne, Switzerland.

Occasional napping, once to twice weekly, was associated with an almost halving in attack/stroke/heart failure risk (48 per cent) compared with those who didn’t nap at all.

This association held true after taking account of potentially influential factors, such as age, and nighttime sleep duration, as well as other cardiovascular disease risks, such as high blood pressure/cholesterol.

And it didn’t change after factoring in excessive daytime sleepiness, depression, and regularly sleeping for at least six hours a night.

Only older age (65+) and severe sleep apnea affected it.

But the 67 per cent heightened cardiovascular risk initially observed for frequent nappers virtually disappeared after taking account of potentially influential factors.

And no associations with cardiovascular disease ‘events’ were found for nap length (from five minutes to one hour plus).

This is an observational study, and as such, can’t establish cause, added to which the information on nap and sleep patterns relied on personal recall. But nap frequency may help to explain the differing conclusions reached by researchers about the impact of napping on heart health, suggested the study authors.

In a linked editorial, Drs Yue Leng and Kristine Yaffe, of the University of California at San Francisco, USA, point out that research in this area is hampered by the absence of a gold standard for defining and measuring naps, making it “premature to conclude on the appropriateness of napping for maintaining optimal heart health.”

But they add: “While the exact physiological pathways linking daytime napping to [cardiovascular disease] risk is not clear, [this research] contributes to the ongoing debate on the health implications of napping, and suggests that it might not only be the duration, but also the frequency that matters.”

And they conclude: “The study of napping is a challenging but also a promising field with potentially significant public health implications. While there remain more questions than answers, it is time to start unveiling the power of naps for a supercharged heart.”

According the NHS, There are three main steps A person can take to help prevent a heart attack.

These are:

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • Avoid smoking
  • Try to keep blood pressure at a healthy level

Managing stress levels may also stave off the risk. As the American Heart Association pointed out: “People under stress may overeat, start smoking or smoke more than they otherwise would. Research has even shown that stress reaction in young adults predicts middle-age blood pressure risk.”

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