Tuesday, August 30, 2011

High Blood Pressure Chocolate and Sleep

What causes high blood pressure? What is the connection between high blood pressure, chocolate and sleep? First we need to state the difference between primary and secondary hypertension. Primary hypertension accounts for 95% of all high blood pressure cases (roughly 72 million Americans) it is multifactorial, that means, there are multiple factors or causes that contribute to producing high blood pressure and is far more common than secondary hypertension that is caused by a specific abnormality. The basic causes are not always known but certain associations have been recognized in people that are prone to high blood pressure; like those that intake a lot of salt and are advancing in age, African Americans, obese, genetically predisposition and suffer from renal insufficiency.

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Approximately 30% of cases of primary hypertension are attributable to genetic factors. Incidences of high blood pressure are greater among African Americans than among Caucasians or Asians and in individuals who have one or two parents with hypertension, high blood pressure is twice as common. The vast majority of patients with primary hypertension have in common a particular abnormality of the arteries or what is known as hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis or arteriosclerosis). This condition is present in those individuals whose primary hypertension is associated with genetic factors, obesity, lack of exercise, overuse of salt, and aging.

High blood pressure and sleep: A lack of deep sleep may be one of the reasons why people develop high blood pressure. A study of older men (age 65 and older) that was recently published found that those who got the least amount of deep sleep were 80% more likely to develop high blood pressure, compared to those who got longer, less interrupted sleep. This study monitored 800 men over a 3 year period with an at-home sleep test that measured sleep patterns and NREM or deep sleep. Results found that poor quality sleep or reduced deep sleep puts people at risk of hypertension and that it is independent from those that suffer from sleep apnea. Deep sleep is the time the body restores and repairs itself. When you are sleeping deeply your blood pressure drops, your breathing slows and your heart rate slows. When you get less deep sleep your blood pressure doesn’t drop enough which may damage your blood vessels. How do you know if you aren’t getting enough deep sleep?

If you are not getting enough deep sleep you are tired during the day, you snore or may stop breathing periodically during the night. Your medication may also cause you to sleep poorly. Ask your doctor for an alternative medication or see if reducing the dose or changing the time when you take it helps (from pm to am). Your quality of sleep is something you need to pay attention to.

What can high blood pressure cause? It’s known as the silent killer and puts people at increase risk for heart disease including; heart attack, congestive heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, peripheral artery disease, and aortic aneurysms (weakening of the wall of the aorta, leading to widening or ballooning of the aorta).

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High blood pressure and chocolate: Five of the seven studies reported a beneficial link between higher levels of chocolate consumptions and the risk of cardiovascular diseases. They found that “the highest levels of chocolate consumption were associated with a 37% reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29% reduction in stroke, compared with the lowest levels of consumption.” The evidence in these studies supports further controlled trials using well-defined preparations of chocolate before they can determine the actual effect of chocolate on heart disease. If the compounds in cocoa can reduce high blood pressure and help with other heart related conditions; it will be important to identify and isolate them to determine the proper dose and best form of treatment. Probably a pill and not a candy bar. :(

Eating chocolate has a positive impact on human health, thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, namely reducing blood pressure and improving insulin sensitivity.

But remember moderation is the key because chocolate, as we all know, is full of calories, and eating too much of it could lead to weight gain, diabetes, or even heart disease – the very ailment some believe chocolate is working to prevent in the first place. When scientists discover the apparent health benefits of chocolate they will find ways to reduce its fat and sugar contents and that would make this “superfood” one sweet treat.

Chocolate and sleep: An article written on chefday.com states that Britain has found further evidence of the health benefits in extra-dark chocolate. The flavanols abundant in raw cocoa powder and dark chocolate (like those found in green tea) help protect cells from oxygen free radicals and reduce inflammation damage. The new findings seem to broaden its benefits far beyond the cardiovascular and anti-cancer benefits documented in numerous prior research reports.

The new evidence was gathered in a study with those that suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). See more on CFS. CFS is characterized by extreme exhaustion, mental confusion, poor stamina and a variety of flu-like symptoms. The study used patients with different degrees of CFS severity from fatigue due to daily activities to those that were frequently bedridden. Participants consumed 1.6 ounces of extra-dark chocolate (85% cocoa solids) daily for eight weeks then stopped for two weeks. After the two week period, they consumed a simulated dark chocolate for another eight weeks. The report showed that they felt less fatigued during the weeks they ate the extra-dark chocolate and began feeling exhausted again when they switched to the placebo chocolate.

Impaired sleep is common among CFS patients, and one possible explanation for the symptom-relief experienced by the test subjects is that dark chocolate is known to increase brain levels of the relaxing, mood-lifting, sleep-enhancing neurotransmitter serotonin, much like the relief a CFS patient gets from taking a serotonin boosting anti-depressant. See other serotonin foods like serotonin chocolate.

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Dark chocolate contains a greater percentage of cocoa solids than does milk chocolate or white chocolate. Because of this, dark chocolate will contain more caffeine than either of these two. Dark chocolate is made with varying percentages of cocoa bean. Chocolate is often labeled either as semi-sweet or bittersweet, terms that are not well defined, though semi-sweet is typically sweeter than bittersweet. So does chocolate contain caffeine? The answer is yes. Does chocolate contain lots of caffeine? The answer is no. Hershey’s milk chocolate bar contains 9 milligrams of caffeine verses 30 milligrams in a Hershey’s dark chocolate candy bar. A typical cup of brewed tea has 40 milligrams.

So should the caffeine that is in chocolate be a concern? It probably should be if you are not healthy or caffeine sensitive. Otherwise, I doubt that the amount of caffeine in chocolate is enough to affect most people unless enormous amounts of chocolate are consumed. In other words if eating or drinking caffeine before bedtime keeps you up you should stay away from chocolate as a late night snack. Chocolate also has another stimulant known as theobromine. Theobromine is the compound that make chocolate dangerous to dogs and cats because it metabolizes so slowly. Theobromine increases your heart rate and can cause sleeplessness and is found in small amounts in dark chocolate. Caffeine and theobromine are stimulants that counteract afternoon sleepiness and many use it as a boost to get through the day. So if you are worried about high blood pressure or have bouts of chronic fatigue, eat some dark chocolate, it’s good for your health. When this superfood is eaten in moderation it can be enormously pleasurable, and one of the most pleasurable foods to be found anywhere is chocolate.

Disclaimer: Throughout this website, statements are made pertaining to the properties and/or functions of food and/or nutritional products. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and these materials and products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The content provided in High Blood Pressure Chocolate and Sleep is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for you or your families sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.

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