Study: Breakfast may aid heart health

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July 23, 2013, 4:46 pm
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(NECN: Jack Thurston, Burlington, Vt.) - Bryan Foster of Burlington, Vt. told New England Cable News he starts every day in a predictable way: "I think I've always been a breakfast eater," he said.

That could end up extending his life. A new study in the American Heart Association journal "Circulation" found men who skip breakfast had a 27 percent greater risk of heart attack or even death from coronary heart disease than men who eat a morning meal.

Click here to read that study

Harvard researchers spent 16 years tracking nearly 27,000 middle-aged or older male health professionals, but said the same should apply to women, too. The study found breakfast skippers tended to smoke and drink more, and were less physically active. The findings also suggested a healthy balance of nutrients in the morning can lead to more energy, and establish good dietary habits overall.

"I think this is food for thought," Dr. Philip Ades of Fletcher Allen Health Care. "But if you're not already a breakfast eater, this doesn't suggest you start right away. You can't just add the calories of breakfast, or they're going to gain weight. They have to subtract calories elsewhere."

Ades specializes in preventative cardiology at Vermont's largest hospital. He told NECN several other studies have shown skipping breakfast can set people up for risk factors like high blood pressure and diabetes.

The Associated Press asked, "Why would skipping breakfast be a heart attack risk?" Experts aren't certain, but here's what they think: People who don't eat breakfast are more likely to be hungrier later in the day and eat larger meals. Those meals mean the body must process a larger amount of calories in a shorter amount of time. That can spike sugar levels in the blood and perhaps lead to clogged arteries.

Of course, living a healthy and long life is a lot more complicated than having a bowl of cereal in the morning. Doctors say there are many lifestyle choices associated with good heart health.

"In terms of preventing coronary heart disease, I wouldn't say the first thing is everyone should go out and eat breakfast," Dr. Ades added. "People should not smoke, people should exercise daily, people should eat a heart-healthy diet towards a Mediterranean diet, get your blood pressure checked, get your cholesterol checked. We can prevent 80-90 percent of the coronary heart disease we are currently having if people would do those simple things."

As for Bryan Foster, he said a mix of exercise and smart eating choices is his prescription for good health.

"I've stuck to some healthy habits, I think," he said.

Tags: Harvard University, American Heart Association, research, Burlington Vermont, breakfast, Jack Thurston, heart problems, fletcher allen health care, bryan foster, dr. philip ades
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