Heart Beat: April 2015
Research suggests that even light jogging may boost longevity
Spending just one to two hours a week jogging at an easy pace may help you live longer and improve your cardiovascular health, according to an analysis published recently in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Danish researchers examined long-term data involving more than 5,000 joggers and non-joggers. Among the findings was evidence that running more frequently, for longer periods of time and at a faster pace didn’t provide any more benefits than shorter, easier jogging workouts. Other studies have suggested that strenuous running programs may be unhealthy, though the risk appears to be small. If you run more than 20 miles a week and participate in marathons or other distance races, researchers say you shouldn’t be alarmed by these studies. There are certainly benefits to be gained from being physically active on a regular basis. Instead, researchers say the takeaway message is that you don’t need to run many miles and for many hours a week to improve your health and cut your mortality risk. In this study, for example, joggers who ran one to 2.4 hours per week had a 71 percent lower risk of death than sedentary non-joggers.
Chronic insomnia may raise the odds of developing hypertension
If it takes you longer than 14 minutes to fall asleep, you may be at a greater risk of high blood pressure, according to a recent study published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension. Researchers determined there’s a strong link between hyperarousal—taking a long time to fall asleep—and hypertension. In this study, they defined hyperarousal as taking at least 14 minutes to fall asleep. Insomnia, which can be difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, has long been associated with several stresses on the body, such as a faster heart rate, high body temperature, increased cortisol levels and other metabolic issues. Researchers suggested that because hyperarousal is a condition that does not allow the body to completely relax, individuals who suffer from chronic insomnia are more likely to see their blood pressure rise. In the study, insomniacs were compared to “normal” sleepers. Chronic insomnia increased the risk of hypertension by 300 percent. People with insomnia often report feelings of fatigue during the day. Combating those feelings with caffeine may provide short-term boosts in energy and focus, but it can also make the insomnia worse. The researchers suggest that insomnia needs to be taken more seriously by doctors and their patients, and that the condition needs to considered a 24-hour health concern and not simply a sleep disorder. If you suffer from insomnia in any form, tell your doctor and be aware that you may need to be more aggressive about your blood pressure control. You and your doctor should also explore ways of improving your sleep. Caffeine and alcohol consumption should be examined, as well as your daily exercise routine and your nightly sleep hygiene habits.
Low vitamin D, dehydration associated with poor stroke recovery
A stroke can be a devastating event that leaves survivors with multiple health challenges. And two studies presented at the 2015 American Stroke Association conference illustrate that your health at the time of a stroke can help determine how well you meet those challenges. In one study, stroke patients with low vitamin D levels were found to have more tissue damage resulting from their strokes than patients with normal vitamin D levels. The individuals with low vitamin D also were less likely to have good outcomes in the months after their strokes. While the study didn’t determine that vitamin D supplementation can actually protect people at high risk for stroke, researchers did say that patients should discuss their vitamin D status and possible supplementation with their doctors. A separate study presented at the conference found that patients who were dehydrated when they had a stroke had worse short-term outcomes than patients who were well-hydrated at the time of the events. Administering fluids to stroke patients in the hospital is approached cautiously because of concerns that a heart condition could lead to fluid backup in the lungs. In general, however, being well-hydrated is important for overall health, so talk with your doctor about what you need to maintain good hydration.