People who exercise regularly and don’t skimp on sleep are less likely to have a stroke. One study found that sleeping 7–8 hours a night reduced the incidence of stroke by 25 per cent compared to those who get either more or less sleep. Spending more than eight hours a night in bed carried an almost 50 per cent higher risk of stroke, and less than seven hours, a 22 per cent higher risk. Those getting 7–8 hours of sleep and regular vigorous exercise were 60 per cent less likely to have a stroke.
Middle-aged women who are overweight have more than four times the risk of metabolic syndrome (associated with the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes), and obese women more than 12 times the risk, compared to those within the healthy weight range. Taking regular physical activity reduces the risk by 60 per cent.
Eating a healthy diet helps with sleep. A small group of normal weight, healthy men and women spent five days in a sleep lab. For the first three days, they ate meals prepared by a nutritionist and for the next two days chose their own food. On the free diet, the average time to fall asleep was 29 minutes compared to 17 minutes on the healthier diet, when they also spent longer in deep sleep. Poor sleep is associated with hypertension, diabetes and obesity.
Fidgeting may reduce the risk of death associated with excessive sitting. A UK study found that women sitting for seven or more hours a day had a 30 per cent increased risk of death compared to those sitting for less than five hours a day. However, if they scored high on fidgeting, they were 37 per cent less at risk, even if they sat for many hours a day.
Eating more slowly might be the easiest way to lose weight. A group of Mexican children aged 6 to 17 years were told to either eat normally or to take only one bite of food every 30 seconds during meals. After six months, the slower eaters lost 2–6 per cent of their weight and the fast eaters gained 4–6 per cent. Over 12 months, the difference was even greater.