Are You Getting High-Quality Sleep?

There are five ways to test the quality of your sleep, and getting a passing score could help you prevent disease and...

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Today’s Health Upgrade

  • Meal timing and cardiovascular disease

  • Don’t forget your cardio

  • The sleep test

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On Our Radar: Meal Timing and Cardiovascular Disease

The number of meals you eat per day doesn’t appear to matter. And many different foods can fit into a healthy diet. But when you eat could influence your overall health.

According to a recent study, people who eat their first and last meals earlier in the day appear to be less likely to get cardiovascular disease. 

Specifically, people who have their first meal before 8 am and their last meal before 8 pm tend to have a lower risk than those who eat their first meal after 9 am and their last meal after 9 pm.

The study did not assess cause and effect, so other factors likely contribute to this relationship (such as people who eat later might also have other unhealthy habits). However, the study wasn’t a small population (more than 100,000 people were analyzed), and this isn’t the first study to suggest more favorable health outcomes for people who eat earlier in the day. 

The data suggests that people who eat their first meal after 9 am are 6 percent more likely to develop cardiovascular disease — and that increases by 6 percent every additional hour without eating. Eating after 9 pm is associated with a 28% increase in the risk of cerebrovascular disease (such as stroke) compared to eating earlier.

While we don’t know why there’s this connection, the earlier timing of meals has been tied to better sleep quality, circadian rhythm regularity, and blood pressure — all of which are tied to cardiovascular health. 

We know that shift work and busy schedules can make this hard. So, if you’re looking for a good place to start, try having your last meal of the day approximately two to three hours before you sleep. 

Don’t Forget Your Cardio

Resistance training is one of the best things you can do for your health. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only thing you need. 

Recent research suggests that aerobic training helps optimize cardiovascular health and reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease. 

The year-long study focused on overweight and obese individuals and had them perform aerobic exercise, resistance training, aerobic and resistance training, or no exercise. While there were many benefits for resistance and aerobic training — such as decreased LDL cholesterol, waist circumference, and strength — the scientists found that resistance training alone didn’t boost heart health as much as cardio. 

If you dig into the details of the study, a different type of resistance training workout might have led to better results. But that misses the bigger picture: there’s no need to think about cardio vs. weights. Both have value. In fact, the study found the biggest reduction in 10-year risk for coronary heart disease was achieved by the group that performed both weights and cardio. 

Your workouts don’t have to be crazy, either. The study combined 25 minutes of cardio and 25 minutes of weight three days a week. Other studies have found that as little as 10 to 15 minutes can improve your health. If you already lift weights, add a little cardio. If you do cardio, add some weights. Don’t overthink. As Arnolds says — do it now! 

The Sleep Test

Even if you can’t sleep as long as you’d like, improving your sleep habits could help keep you healthier.

Recent research suggests that the quality of your sleep is one of the strongest predictors of how long you might live.

The scientists reviewed data from more than 170,000 people to understand how your sleep behaviors and habits — not just how long you sleep — affect your health, risk of disease, and longevity. They analyzed five different variables:

  1. Sleep duration

  2. Difficulty falling asleep more than twice per week

  3. Staying asleep without trouble

  4. Not needing prescription sleep medication

  5. Feeling well-rested after waking (at least five times per week)

Those who were good sleepers lived five years longer, were 30 percent less likely to die from any reason, 21 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, and 20 percent less likely to die from cancer. 

But perfection isn’t required; those who could check at least two boxes lived longer, were healthier, and had less disease.

The magic number for sleep appears to be at least six hours per night, ideally between seven to nine hours. 

Given how much we write about sleep — and how much you have all requested guidance — would you like us to work on a free sleep guide? Let us know in the poll below.

Publisher: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Editors-in-chief: Adam Bornstein and Daniel Ketchell