A good night’s sleep can lower the risk of heart conditions
A good night’s sleep can lower the risk of heart attacks and stroke. So says a recent study based on research from the UK Biobank, a huge data base of genetic and health information. After looking at the sleep patterns of around 400,000 Britons the research published in the European Heart Journal showed that those with the healthiest sleep patterns, who regularly got between seven and eight hours slumber a night, had fewer heart-related conditions[i].
Meanwhile, if you have trouble falling or staying asleep extracts of valerian root can help. Containing natural compounds known as iridoids, it has a calming effect on the nervous system, which can help to relax and put you in the mood for sleep. Valerian is often combined with other herbs such as lemon balm and hops, both known for their calming properties
Small bouts of gentle exercise can still have a beneficial impact on health
Here’s some good news for fitness slackers. Research has found that even one slow jog a week for around 50 minutes can make a significant difference to how long you live[ii]. What’s more, regular runners who run faster for longer do not necessarily benefit any more than those who hit the road gently just once a week. So, if your excuse for not exercising is lack of time, rejoice. Plan at least one gentle run a week and you will reap the benefits.
50 years old? Healthy habits to adopt for a longer life
Approaching your 50th birthday or already there? Listen to this. Sticking to four or five healthy habits in midlife can earn you an extra ten years before you succumb to disease, a study has shown[iii].
Fifty-year-olds who do not smoke and who maintain a healthy weight, do at least half an hour of physical exercise a day, keep their alcohol intake to moderate levels and eat a balanced diet will live up to ten years more without serious illness compared with their less healthy peers according to research.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal included data from 110,000 people and looked specifically at cardiovascular disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. Dr Kate Allen, executive director of science and public affairs at the World Cancer Research Fund, said: ‘This new, large study further confirms our own research that having a healthy lifestyle lowers your risk of cancer and other diseases’.
Eating apples can help reduce cholesterol levels
An apple a day keeps the doctor away may be more than just an old wives’ tale. A recent study from the University of Reading reveals that eating two apples a day can help to keep cholesterol levels down which in turn may help fend off heart health problems[iv]. The reason? It’s thought apples are a good source of fibre and contain compounds known as polyphenols which are known to help reduce levels of LDL (aka ‘bad” cholesterol) and improve blood vessel function.
According to Julie Lovegrove who carried out the research: ‘This study shows that an easy-to-implement dietary change could have an important impact on key measures of heart disease risk’.
[i] Fan M, Sun D, Zhou T, et al. Sleep patterns, genetic susceptibility, and incident cardiovascular disease: a prospective study of 385,292 UK biobank participants European Heart Journal, Published online 18 December 2019
[iii] Li Y, Schoufour J, Wang DD et al.Healthy lifestyle and life expectancy free of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes: prospective cohort study BMJ, Published online 9 January 2020
[iv] Koutsos A, Riccadonna S, Ulaszewska MM, et al.Two apples a day lower serum cholesterol and improve cardiometabolic biomarkers in mildly hypercholesterolemic adults: a randomized, controlled, crossover trial The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Published online 16 December 2019