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How Meal Timing Affects Heart Attack Patient Outcomes

For an individual who’s had a heart attack, making a habit of skipping breakfast or eating dinner near bedtime can impact his or her likelihood of dying, having another heart attack, or developing an

When an individual who’s had a heart attack makes a habit of skipping breakfast and eating dinner near bedtime, their likelihood of dying, having another heart attack, or developing angina within 30 days after hospital discharge increases by four to five times, according to a recent study. Moreover, the people who partake in this behavior are not the minority.

What Did The Study Find?

According to the research published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, some 57% of patients with acute coronary syndrome skip breakfast, 51% have late-night dinners, and 41 % exhibit both these unhealthy behaviors. This study included a sample of 113 patients with a mean age of 60, 73% of whom were men and 27% women. All participants were older than 18 years with a severe form of heart attack called ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). They were all submitted to primary percutaneous coronary intervention and admitted to the coronary intensive care unit (ICU) between August 2017 and August 2018. 

“One in 10 patients with STEMI dies within a year, and nutrition is a relatively inexpensive and easy way to improve prognosis,” said Dr. Marcos Minicucci from São Paolo State University, Brazil, about the importance of the research in a statement. “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 worsen things.”

Working adults are more susceptible to having a late dinner and skipping breakfast in the morning. Previous studies have found that people who miss breakfast and have a late dinner are more likely to have other unhealthy habits, such as smoking and low physical activity. The study also found that patients were more likely to exhibit unhealthy eating habits when taking statins, a drug that lowers cholesterol because they saw it as an alternative to changing their behavior.

What Do Professionals Recommend?

Minicucci recommends patients wait two hours between eating dinner and going to sleep and always eat breakfast. According to the National Institutes of Health, late-night meals can cause indigestion that interferes with sleep. Minicucci says a good breakfast should have 15 to 35% of one’s total daily calorie intake and include dairy products (fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese), carbohydrates (whole wheat bread, bagels, cereals), and whole fruits.

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