News from the first day of the ESC Congress

29 August 2015        

Logo of the European Society of Cardiology. For five days some of the world's leading cardiovascular researchers, including many we fund, are in London for the annual European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress.

The first day centred on the relationship between lifestyle and blood pressure. In the UK, as many as 7 million people are living with undiagnosed high blood pressure, greatly increasing their risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.

The benefits of a nap

In an observational study from Greece, Dr Manolis Kallistratos from Asklepieion Voula General Hospital in Athens, found that midday naps were associated with reduced blood pressure levels. The researchers learnt that midday sleepers had five per cent lower average blood pressure over a 24 hour period compared with patients who did not sleep at all.

Couple laid in bed at homeOur Associate Medical Director, Professor Jeremy Pearson, said: "This research showed an association between those who take a midday nap and a slightly reduced blood pressure compared to those who don't sleep during the day."

"Previous studies have shown associations between regular sleep patterns and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and we know that people's blood pressure drops when they are asleep. These findings shouldn't lead to sleep being introduced into people's daily working routines, but they are a reminder that a balanced lifestyle, including taking some time out to relax and rest during busy working days days, will help people lower their risk of heart disease."

Can too much TV be dangerous?

In a separate study from Japan, researchers found that watching an average of five or more hours of television per day was associated with twice the risk of fatal pulmonary embolism as watching less than two and a half hours daily. A pulmonary embolism is a serious condition that is caused by blood clots obstructing the arteries carrying blood to the lungs and is commonly associated with long-haul flights.

Responding to the study, our Associate Medical Director, Professor Jeremy Pearson, said: "This study showed that people who watch five or more hours of television a day may be at higher risk of suffering a pulmonary embolism than those who watch less than 2.5 hours a day, although the risk remained extremely small."

While, we wouldn't advocate a public health warning for watching television, people who spend many hours in front of the TV should consider how this might be impacting their heart health. We already know that sedentary behaviour and physical inactivity both increase our risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke, so it's important to take breaks and keep active in bursts of at least ten minutes or more.

How much is too much coffee?

Blood pressure test strapIn a third study presented by researchers from Italy's Hospital of San Daniele del Friuli in Udine, heavy coffee drinking was associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular events, including heart attacks in young adults (18-45) with mild high blood pressure.

Professor Jeremy Pearson said: "The relationship between coffee and heart health is a complex one and far more research is needed to fully understand it."

"This study suggests that those who are heavy coffee drinkers and have high blood pressure could be at increased risk of heart disease. However, this study doesn't show cause and effect, so there could be other lifestyle factors that put these hypertensive people at increased risk, meaning further research is needed."

This research didn't consider the impact of drinking coffee in people with normal blood pressure and current evidence suggests that moderate amounts of caffeine has no effect on your risk of developing coronary heart disease.

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