DEAR MAYO CLINIC: I've heard that having sleep apnea can increase your blood pressure. What if you don't sleep well but don't have sleep apnea. Does that raise your blood pressure, too?

Research suggests that sleeping five hours or less a night can, over time, increase your risk of developing — or worsening — high blood pressure. Sleeping between five and six hours a night also may increase high blood pressure risk. This can occur with or without obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep disorder in which you repeatedly stop and start breathing during sleep.

In one Mayo research study, study participants were restricted to four hours of sleep each night for nine nights. The same participants got nine hours of sleep each night during a second study visit. When they slept four hours, study participants had an average systolic blood pressure reading (top number) during the night that was 10 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) higher than during the nine-hour sleep phase. In addition, the usual blood pressure dip that occurs at night wasn't as pronounced when they were sleep deprived.

It's not fully understood why this occurs, but it's thought that sleep helps regulate stress hormones and helps your nervous system to remain healthy. Over time, lack of sleep could hurt your body's ability to regulate stress hormones, leading to high blood pressure.

Nearly everyone has a bad night or two of sleep now and then, but if you're consistently getting less than six hours of sleep, talk to your doctor about ways to improve your rest. Not only is poor sleep linked to elevated blood pressure, it also can have a big impact on your enjoyment of life and has been associated with other health risks, such as obesity, diabetes, depression, risk of accidents or falls, and even premature death. (adapted from Mayo Clinic Health Letter) — Naima Covassin, Ph.D., Cardiovascular Diseases, Mayo Clinic, Rochester.

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Jogging tips for beginners

READERS: Just 30 to 60 minutes of weekly jogging can add up to substantial health benefits. If you're considering jogging, here are some tips:

Check with your doctor: Ask if it's OK to try jogging. This is especially important if you have a history of cardiovascular disease or diabetes.

Develop baseline fitness: Work up to being able to walk 150 minutes a week. Then try adding brief bouts — such as one minute — of faster walking throughout your walk.

Dress for the occasion: It likely will be worth it to purchase a pair of comfortable and supportive walking or running shoes. It also will be more comfortable to wear clothing that's lighter and looser than street clothing. Because you'll be producing heat, you can dress in lighter clothing for jogging than for walking.

Take it slow: Start by walking. After five to 10 minutes, try jogging for a minute, or even 30 seconds, then return to a walking pace to finish the session. Over days, weeks and months, gradually incorporate additional 30-second or 1-minute bouts of jogging into your walk, or lengthen the bouts of jogging until you reach five to 10 minutes of jogging most days, or longer on fewer days.

Avoid injury: Injury isn't as likely with easy jogging in small amounts. Further reduce injury risk by staying light on your feet by taking fairly quick steps — such as about 170 to 180 steps a minute. Work on running tall with good posture. (Adapted from Mayo Clinic Health Letter)

Mayo Clinic Q & A is an educational resource and doesn’t replace regular medical care. Email a question to MayoClinicQ&A@mayo.edu. For more information, visit www.mayoclinic.org.

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