DR MICHAEL MOSLEY: Why a warm bath can lower blood pressure and protect against diabetes?

In addition to the tendency to argue, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure (hypertension) run strongly in my family tree.

My father had both, which undoubtedly contributed to his early death at age 74, while my mother’s family is prone to strokes, which again are closely linked to elevated blood sugar levels and elevated blood pressure.

So I assume I have some pretty dodgy genes with me, which is why I have a blood sugar test kit and a blood pressure monitor at home and keep a close eye on both.

About half of UK adults have hypertension, while a third have raised blood sugar, and most don’t know they have it because they haven’t been tested.

But while these two conditions are treated as separate, there is mounting evidence that they are closely intertwined.

And the bad news is that if you have both, it quadruples your risk of heart attack or stroke and increases your risk of dementia.

In addition to the tendency to argue, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure (hypertension) run strongly in my family tree, writes MICHAEL MOSLEY

In addition to the tendency to argue, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure (hypertension) run strongly in my family tree, writes MICHAEL MOSLEY

The good news is that if you treat one, there’s a good chance you’ll improve the other too — for reasons we don’t understand, lowering your blood pressure lowers your risk of type 2 diabetes.

This was confirmed this week in a study in The Lancet, which found that lowering a person’s blood pressure, with medication or lifestyle changes, has a major effect not only on reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke, but also on the risk of heart disease. risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The study, which involved more than 145,000 people, showed that even a very modest drop in blood pressure reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes by 11 percent. But there was a sting in the tail: Not all blood pressure drugs had a positive effect.

While angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin receptor II blockers lowered diabetes risk, thiazide diuretics or beta blockers increased it by 20 and 48 percent, respectively — possibly because the different drugs work in very different ways.

So what can you do if you want to lower your blood pressure without being dependent on drugs?

Losing weight is a simple yet powerful tool; cutting back on salt and becoming more active can also help. My other suggestions are:

TRY TO SING

I enjoy singing songs while I’m driving or in the shower – and thankfully research shows that singing is a good way to reduce the stress hormone, cortisol, which in turn should lower your blood pressure and blood sugar ( cortisol raises your blood sugar levels by converting protein into glucose).

And it can work pretty immediately: I remember seeing a middle-aged patient a few years ago who was in the hospital for surgery, but her blood pressure was so high that the surgeons were afraid to operate.

She began to sing softly to herself and within 20 minutes her blood pressure had dropped enough for the surgery to go ahead.

For reasons we don't understand, lowering your blood pressure lowers your risk of type 2 diabetes

For reasons we don't understand, lowering your blood pressure lowers your risk of type 2 diabetes

For reasons we don’t understand, lowering your blood pressure lowers your risk of type 2 diabetes

TAKE A HOT BATH

A daily dip in hot water can help lower blood pressure — the heat causes your blood vessels to expand, reducing the work required for the heart to pump blood around your body.

This was confirmed in a Japanese study published last year, based on data from 30,000 people over the age of 20.

Researchers found that the people who took a warm bath most days had a 28 percent lower risk of heart disease and a 26 percent lower risk of stroke than those who bathed less than twice a week.

EAT DARK CHOCOLATE

Eating dark chocolate (more than 75 percent cocoa) can lower blood pressure almost immediately — this is because it contains significant amounts of flavanols, compounds that can cause your blood vessels to relax and expand, among other things.

A few years ago, I took part in an experiment where researchers used an ultrasound to measure the stiffness of my arteries before and after eating a few squares of dark chocolate.

To my surprise, there was marked improvement after the chocolate, accompanied by a drop in my blood pressure. Unfortunately, you don’t get the same effect with milk chocolate.

VISIT THE ZOO – IF YOU DON’T HAVE A PET!

I love my family dog, Tari, a King Charles Spaniel, but after researching the health benefits of having a dog, I find she is also remarkable value for money.

For starters, she encourages me to walk daily, which is good for my blood pressure.

A survey of residents of a new residential area in Perth, Western Australia, found that people with dogs walked 30 minutes more per week and had lower blood pressure than those who didn’t.

If you don’t have a pet, a visit to a zoo can also be beneficial.

In a 2010 study, researchers in Japan found that after a day at the zoo, study participants not only walked an average of 6,000 steps more than usual, but their blood pressure dropped significantly.

Exercising makes your heart stronger, allowing it to pump blood with less effort, reducing the force on your arteries and thus lowering blood pressure.

Eating dark chocolate (more than 75 percent cocoa) can lower blood pressure almost immediately.  Pictured: Dr.  Michael Mosley

Eating dark chocolate (more than 75 percent cocoa) can lower blood pressure almost immediately.  Pictured: Dr.  Michael Mosley

Eating dark chocolate (more than 75 percent cocoa) can lower blood pressure almost immediately. Pictured: Dr. Michael Mosley

PRACTICE BREATHING

WE think we know how to breathe — after all, we’d be dead if we didn’t — but there are definite benefits to practicing slow, deep breaths.

This activates our parasympathetic nervous system (which controls our stress response) and in turn lowers the heart rate and widens our blood vessels, lowering blood pressure.

One of the simplest types of breathing exercises, which I do for a few minutes most days, is called four-two-four.

This involves breathing in through the nose for a count of four, holding it for two seconds, and then exhaling through the mouth for a count of four. Very soothing.

You can poop with your dog

I was recently very surprised when a leading sleep researcher told me that she shares her bed with two dogs.

I’ve always assumed that dogs in the bedroom, let alone on the bed, are a disaster for sleep.

Our dog, Tari, isn’t even allowed upstairs, although I know she’ll sneak in if she thinks we’re not there.

Not much research has been done on the impact of sharing your bed with a dog. But a major 2017 study by the Mayo Clinic in the US that looked at sleep efficiency — the amount of time we actually sleep — found it was about 80 percent when a dog was in bed, and 83 percent when it’s in bed. the room (85 percent or more sleep efficiency is considered excellent).

I was recently very surprised when a leading sleep researcher told me that she shares her bed with two dogs.  I've always assumed that dogs in the bedroom, let alone on the bed, are a disaster for sleeping

I was recently very surprised when a leading sleep researcher told me that she shares her bed with two dogs.  I've always assumed that dogs in the bedroom, let alone on the bed, are a disaster for sleeping

I was recently very surprised when a leading sleep researcher told me that she shares her bed with two dogs. I’ve always assumed that dogs in the bedroom, let alone on the bed, are a disaster for sleeping

This meant that the dog owners lost about 14 minutes of sleep per night (although the dogs themselves slept just as well on the bed or in the room).

But while sharing with your dog may not disrupt your sleep too much, once he gets used to it, he will start to howl if left out.

And like humans, they become more restless as they get older.

BEWARE OF VEGAN JUNK FOOD

My wife, Clare, and I have been looking at how we can reduce our carbon footprint. For example, in addition to keeping our house cool, we are thinking about going vegan.

There is ample evidence that meat and dairy production is a major contributor to the release of atmospheric warming gases, and it is clear that many others feel the same way, with the number of Britons eating and drinking only plant-based foods nearly doubling in a decade.

Two things are holding me back right now. The first is that I love dairy and have a hard time with plant-based milks.

But I’m also not completely sold on all the purported health benefits.

Yes, if you cook your meals from scratch, make sure you get enough protein and supplement with the necessary vitamins, a vegan diet can be very healthy.

The problem is, food manufacturers are now rushing all kinds of vegan-based ultra-processed foods, like vegan sausage rolls, that are probably no healthier than meat alternatives.

For example, a 2018 study by Action On Salt found that some meat-free burgers contain 15 percent more salt than the meat burgers.

And a recent study in the Journal of Nutrition, involving 21,000 people, found that the vegans ate the most junk food, with 39 percent of their diet consisting of ultra-processed foods, compared to 33 percent for meat eaters.

So I might give it a try at Veganuary (trying to only eat vegan in January), but I’ll definitely have to stock up on more recipe books and practice first.

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