Health risks of regular napping; Mental activities against cognitive decline; and an update on the benefits of 10,000 daily steps

Regular napping may increase the risk of high blood pressure and stroke, researchers find

Adults who take frequent naps are at greater risk of developing high blood pressure and stroke, according to a major new study published in Hypertension, a journal of the American Heart Association.

Study participants who napped regularly during the day were 12 percent more likely to develop high blood pressure over time and 24 percent more likely to have a stroke — compared to people who never napped. For study participants under the age of 60, the risk is greater. If they nap regularly, the risk of developing high blood pressure increases by 20 percent compared to those who never or rarely nap.

The findings confirm the importance of a good night’s sleep, which benefits overall health. Getting enough sleep, 7 to 9 hours a night for adults and more for children, is now considered an essential component of a healthy lifestyle, according to the American Heart Association’s recently updated “Life’s Essential 8” factors for optimal cardiovascular health (AHA). People who nap regularly do so because they don’t get enough sleep at night and are more likely to have other bad lifestyle habits, previous studies have shown.

In the new study, researchers analyzed data from the UK Biobank, a previous study that recorded genetic and health data on more than 500,000 individuals aged 40-69 who lived in the UK between 2006 and 2010. Those who already having hypertension or stroke at the start of the study were excluded, leaving 358,451 study participants. Researchers looked at three categories of napping: usually, sometimes, and never/rarely.

Of the participants, 50,507 had hypertension and 4,333 had strokes with a mean follow-up of 11.2 years.

Researchers: Physical and mental activities as we age help prevent cognitive decline

A new study shows that previously established benefits of physical and mental activities as people age can preserve the brain’s processing speed and may help slow or reverse cognitive aging.

The study focused on the effects of exercise and mental activities — such as reading, taking classes, or playing cards or other games — on “cognitive reserve” as it relates to speed of thought and memory. Cognitive reserve refers to the brain’s buffer or protection against the development of cognitive impairment and dementia.

A slowing of the brain’s processing speed is a key factor in cognitive aging. The ability to think faster helps with problem solving, daily tasks, and the ability to focus and engage in conversations with others.

“We found that greater physical activity was associated with a greater reserve of thinking speed in women, but not in men,” said study author Judy Pa, PhD, of the University of California, San Diego. “Participating in more mental activities was associated with a greater reserve of thinking speed for both men and women.”

Mental processing speed in both men and women benefited from cognitive activities such as playing cards and reading, according to the study, which was published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The study included 758 people with an average age of 76. Participants underwent brain scans and took mental “speed and memory tests,” according to a news release. “To calculate cognitive reserve, people’s thinking test scores were compared to brain changes associated with dementia, such as the total volume of the hippocampus, a key brain area affected by Alzheimer’s disease,” the new release states.

Study participants were also asked about their usual weekly physical activity. In the area of ​​mental activity, they were asked whether they engaged in three types of activities: reading magazines, newspapers or books; going to lessons; and playing cards, games or bingo. They received one point for each type of activity, for a maximum of three points.

For mental activity, the participants received an average of 1.4 points. For physical activity, participants engaged in an average of at least 15 minutes per week of exercise, such as brisk walking and cycling.

Each additional mental activity people engaged in corresponded to 13 years less aging in their processing speed—17 years in men and 10 years in women.

“Knowing that people could potentially improve their cognitive reserve by taking simple steps like going to classes at the community center, playing bingo with their friends, or spending more time walking or gardening is very exciting,” said Dr. r Pa, author of the study.

Study: Walking 10,000 steps daily may reduce risk of early death for those with diabetes, prediabetes

Walking 10,000 steps a day may help you stay healthy overall, but for those with the benefits, it may go even further for those with prediabetes and diabetes, according to a new study.

Such a daily routine is the best at reducing the risk of death from any cause for people who find it challenging to control their blood sugar levels, according to researchers at the University of Seville, Spain, who evaluated a group of US adults with prediabetes and diabetes using data from the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The findings are published in Diabetes Care, a publication of the American Diabetes Association.

Of the people in the study, 1,194 adults had prediabetes and 493 had diabetes. Participants wore an accelerometer on their waist to count their steps. The researchers adjusted for age, sex, ethnicity, smoking, alcohol, and use of prescription diabetes medications. The group was observed for nine years.

In a separate study published last year, researchers found that middle-aged adults who walked an average of at least 7,000 steps per day were 50 to 70 percent less likely to die of any cause in the next decade compared to with adults taking fewer steps, according to results published this month in JAMA Network Open.

“Being physically active provides significant health benefits for many conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and several types of cancer, as well as improving quality of life,” the researchers emphasized as part of the study. “The number of steps people take each day is a meaningful indicator for quantifying total daily activity.”

The US Physical Activity Guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity that includes brisk walking.

Tags: diabetes management, exercise and fitness, high blood pressure, sleep disorders

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