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Heart Disease Health Center

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Take a Nap, Protect Your Heart?

Large Greek Study Suggests Midday Siestas Cut Heart Deaths
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 12, 2007 -- Eat right, get plenty of exercise, don’t smoke and -- take a daily nap?

Naps aren’t generally included in the litany of good-for-your-heart lifestyle choices recommended for lowering cardiovascular risk, but they may soon be.

New research suggests a midday siesta may reduce a person’s risk of death from heart disease, possibly by lowering stress levels.

The findings must be confirmed, but Dimitrios Trichopoulos, MD, a study author, tells WebMD there is little downside to taking naps -- and there could be big health benefits.

“The siesta is a victim of progress. Most of us aren’t in the position to take a daily nap,” he says. “But our research suggests that the practice could help protect the heart, and we need further studies to find out if this really is the case.”

Part of the Culture

Trichopoulos says the research stemmed from the observation that heart disease death rates are lower in Mediterranean and Latin American countries where midday siestas are part of the culture.

His own earlier research in a Greek population provided weak evidence in favor of the nap hypothesis, but another, larger study, conducted in Costa Rica failed to show an association.

The newly published Greek study by Trichopoulos and colleagues from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and Greece’s University of Athens Medical School is the largest ever to examine the issue in a previously healthy population.

A total of 23,681 residents of Greece with no history of heart disease, stroke, or cancer at enrollment were followed an average of 6.3 years.

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