Having an afternoon nap could raise blood pressure, according to new research. Another study presented at a New York conference, however, has found that consuming small amounts of Italian cheese can keep hypertension at bay.

A serving of Italian Grana Padano cheese — a hard cheese that is similar to the Parmigiano Reggiano variety — can help lower blood pressure, researchers from the Guglielmo da Saliceto Hospital and Catholic University of Piacenza in Italy concluded.

The cheese was shown to contain peptides that relax blood vessels just like popular ACE-inhibiting blood pressure medications, such as prescription drugs benazepril or captopril.

"The effects are similar to what you would expect with antihypertensive medications," said lead author Dr. Giuseppe Crippa. "Adding a little Grana Padano to a healthy diet may provide clinically significant blood pressure lowering benefits."

In a randomized trial involving 30 hypertensive adults, the researchers provided subjects with either 1 ounce of Grana Padano per day or a placebo-like cheese for two months. They monitored blood pressure throughout the study.

The results revealed a 7 to 8 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure as well as a 5 to 7 mmHg drop in diastolic blood pressure for those who ate Grana Padano. There were no changes seen in body mass index as well as blood lipids and blood sugar.

Hypertension or high blood pressure currently affects one-third of U.S. adults, translating to 70 million individuals. It is directly or indirectly involved in over 350,000 deaths every year in the country.

The findings of this study and others were discussed from May 13 to 17 in New York City at the 31st Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Society of Hypertension.

Among the latest research presented at the meeting are new data challenging the popular belief that napping will help lower blood pressure. According to the meta-analysis of researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, people seeking afternoon naps had a 13 to 19 percent greater hypertension risk.

Nighttime napping told a different story altogether: an observational study saw that night-shift workers napping at night had a 21 percent reduced hypertension risk.

Earlier this month, a separate report from Northumbria University researchers found that cherry juice can lower blood pressure perhaps to a point where the need for medication may be eliminated. According to the findings, there was a 7 percent drop in the blood pressure levels of men with early hypertension three hours after taking the juice.

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