Take a NAP and lower your Blood Pressure

March 18, 2019

References: Science DailyAmerican College of Cardiology MeetingsAlzheimer's Assoc 2018,

We don't nap much. But blood pressure is important. I mean, really important. It's one place where standard internal medicine agrees with functional medicine. It's only the methods that differ. Instead of pushing a pill, which is quick and easy and seemingly the cure, I'm interested in focusing on lowering blood pressure with natural methods. My interest in high blood pressure stems all the way back to my medical school days at Yale, where I got a graduation prize for my thesis on the detection of hypertension in the office. 

Nowadays, I'm focused on high blood pressure because it is also one of the bedrock known risks for cognitive decline. Last July (2017) a report of the SPRINT MIND trial was purported to show a 15% reduction in dementia when folks with high blood pressurewere treatedfor a systolic pressure of 140 down to 120. The problem with the study was that upon reducing the rate of dementia from 18 to 14 per 1,000 patient years (looks huge to me) the study was terminated early, and then the statisticians said it wasn't statistically significant and can't be sited. Grrr. 
But back to napping and high blood pressure. This is something that works and you can do yourself. I'm not asking for a 2-hour nap, but the study did show a linear relationship between time napping and effect. The longer you nap, the better off you do. But for starters, just fall asleep so that you wake up and feel like you got a brief snooze. Like the Greeks, where this study was conducted. That study, reported last week (March 2019) at the ACC Meetings showed a 5.3 mm Hg reduction in blood pressure (from 132 to 127) in those who napped. This is not a small deal. Just a 2 mm reduction will reduce your risk of stroke 10%. A 5 mm reduction is as much as a pill. And that gets to be dramatic when you extrapolate the effect out to a population.

Why is this important? It turns out that treating high blood pressure is best done with lifestyle modification. In effect, having high blood pressure says that your metabolism and lifestyle is out of whack. It represents "endothelial dysfunction". Your blood vessel tree is unhappy with you and your lifestyle. Each little lowering you do results in synergistic benefit. One plus one is three. One plus one plus one is five. If you can do multiple lifestyle modifications, you can control your blood pressure naturally, and lose the pills.

Let's do it. Here goes a series on high blood pressure. Starting with naps. What caught my eye about napping was Winston Churchill's habit of taking all his clothes off in the middle of the day and taking a full, two-hour nap. He claimed that allowed him to get two 8 hour work days out of every day. He lived into his 90s, despite his weight issues. Granted, he had a stroke, but never developed dementia.

WWW: What will work for me. I grew up in a household of napping parents. It was routine for my father to head for the bedroom to take a nap when he could. And on driving long distances, he would stop and snooze for a few minutes. His brain made it to 87 without any dementia. Now, we talk about taking a "full Winston" when we take an afternoon nap. The means, "take off your clothes and get between the sheets."

POP QUIZ

  1. Napping helps lower blood pressure? T or F. Answer: True
  2. How much? Answer: up to 5 points
  3. Which reduces your risk of a stroke by how much? Answer: 10% for every 2 points
  4. Lifestyle changes are more effective than pills because...? Answer: They are synergistic which is better than additive. They multiply each other.
  5. What's a full Winston? Answer: Copying Winston Churchill by taking off your clothes and getting between the sheets. (Breaks the rules for getting 8 hours of sleep at night, but Winston lived into his creative 90s. One person does not a rule make, but Churchill was such a force of nature, perhaps he does.)

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