These Two Eating Habits Could Endanger Your Heart

A new study examined the dining schedules of people who had serious heart attacks. Here’s what they found.

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Who hasn’t bailed on breakfast when late for work? (Damn you, snooze button.) But skipping out on your morning meal, as well as eating dinner late, can put you in greater danger of complications if you have a heart attack, according to a new study.

Research published April 18 in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that people with these eating habits have worse outcomes if they have a heart attack — in fact, they’re four to five times more likely to die, have another heart attack, or experience angina (AKA chest pain) within a month after leaving the hospital for the heart attack.

To gather data, the study assessed 113 people with an average age of 60 who had a specific, serious type of heart attack called ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). Seventy-three percent of participants were men.

"One in 10 patients with STEMI dies within a year, and nutrition is a relatively inexpensive and easy way to improve prognosis," said study author Marcos Minicucci, M.D., Ph.D., of São Paolo State University, Brazil, in a press release.

When each study participant was admitted to the hospital for their heart attack, they were surveyed about their eating habits and whether they often skipped breakfast (defined as no food before lunch at least three times a week) and/or ate dinner late (defined as a meal within two hours before bedtime at least three times a week).

Heart-healthy eating habits are key

People who forgo breakfast and have a late dinner are more likely to have other unhealthy habits such as smoking and low levels of physical activity, according to previous data.

"Our research shows that the two eating behaviors are independently linked with poorer outcomes after a heart attack, but having a cluster of bad habits will only make things worse," Dr. Minicucci said. "People who work late may be particularly susceptible to having a late supper and then not being hungry in the morning."

For one, instead of missing breakfast and dining close to bedtime, try adopting a healthier eating schedule to boost your heart health. Dr. Minicucci recommended a minimum two-hour period between dinner and bedtime (the amount of time between dinner and bed is what really counts, more so than what time you eat dinner).

"It is said that the best way to live is to breakfast like a king," he said in the press release. "A good breakfast is usually composed of dairy products (fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese), a carbohydrate (whole wheat bread, bagels, cereals), and whole fruits. It should have 15-35% of our total daily calorie intake.”

Knowing the basics of heart-healthy eating is one thing, but if you’re still feeling stumped about what to put in your grocery cart, check out HealthCentral’s heart-healthy eating guide to get started.

“There are nutrients that, if consumed adequately, reduce your risk for heart disease,” registered dietitian Lisa Nelson tells us. “If you've already been diagnosed with a heart-related condition, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, you can still make changes to your diet that will help you live happier and healthier too.”

See more helpful articles:

Why Your Gut Bacteria Matters for Heart Health

5 Weeks to a Healthier Heart: Take the Challenge

How Raspberries Can Help Lower Cholesterol