August 16, 2022

COLUMN: Which one wins?

As a gift, I received a new device that will extend my life, if studies at the University of Harvard turn out to be true. The device is a coffee maker.

But a temptation, or need, some of us may face may eliminate the benefits of the coffee. Results of another study released earlier this summer state “frequent or even usual” napping was linked with an elevated risk of developing high blood pressure and having a stroke.

My first concern was defining “frequent or even usual.”

Published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, frequent or usual daytime napping in adults “was associated with a 12% higher risk of developing high blood pressure and a 24% high risk of having a stroke compared to never napping.”

Taking a nap has different reasons. If a person has troubles with normal, overnight sleeping patterns, a nap is common during the day. I can vouch for that. That should be enough to consider medical attention to improve overnight sleep routines.

But sometimes a nap happens because of the physical or emotional stress, or combination of both, during a day, days or week. I can vouch for that to.

One of the best naps I’ve had was two days after bringing our first born home from the hospital. The first two days were changing everything in our lives because we were new parents. An early Saturday afternoon, Jennifer and 4-day-old son Grant were resting in the living room. I took advantage of the opportunity and quiet and laid down in the bedroom. It might have been the best nap I’ve ever had.

Ten years ago, preparing for a new job, selling a house and trying to find another to buy, was exhaustive. A hot Saturday July afternoon included a box fan and the beginning of a movie on TV. I woke up during the ending credits about two hours later.

Sometimes life forces one to stop and rest.

If what Harvard released is true, coffee makers will be known as life extenders.

“The overall evidence has been pretty convincing that coffee has been more healthful than harmful in terms of health outcomes,” said Frank Hu chair of the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in an April 5, 2021, article in Discover. “For most people, moderate coffee consumption can be incorporated into a healthy diet.”

My coffee habits change. During the colder months of the year, my coffee consumption is more; at least two cups a day is common. During the summer months, I drink more iced tea than coffee. I normally have one cup of coffee a day then.

Hu said two to five cups of coffee a day is linked to a lower likelihood of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, liver and endometrial cancers, Parkinson’s disease and depression. The theory is reducing the risk of getting any of those ailments will extend life.

That last line always gets me. I was exposed to coffee at an early age, mainly my grandparents. Coffee was constant. Didn’t matter if it was 20 below 0 in January or 98 degrees in July, coffee was available. Always. All of my grandparents should still be around. My parents also have coffee, too. They are both still around.

What made a visit to my mother’s parents even more part of the study is coffee would start the day. That afternoon, it was common to turn on a John Wayne movie and eventually nap a little during the movie. So does that day cancel out each other?

I thought it was interesting as the coffee study suggested brewing coffee with a paper filter, because unfiltered coffee is associated with higher rates of early death, and can contain compounds that raise levels of LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol. They also advise not going overboard with added cream or sugar. Again, what’s overboard? Is that a lot per cup or some each day of the week?

I stopped putting in sugar in my coffee after trying some creamers which appears to be a strong industry based on the number of choices. The Almond Joy candy bar flavor is preferred, but I’m just as happy with half-and-half (thanks, grandma).

So which one rules life, the coffee or the nap? I don’t know, but I’m still wanting to have both when needed.

John Van Nostrand


An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.