Skipping breakfast, eating late dinners could be deadly for heart attack survivors, study finds

Skipping breakfast and eating dinner close to bedtime could be a deadly decision — especially for those who have already suffered a heart attack, a study released this week suggests.

Those who skip breakfast and eat late dinners have a four to five times higher chance of an “[early] death, another heart attack, or angina (chest pain) within 30 days after hospital discharge for heart attack,” per the study, which was published Thursday in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

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To come to this conclusion, researchers focused on those who had suffered from a “particularly serious” heart attack known as an ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction, or STEMI, according to the study. Researchers then asked the 113 participants — 73 percent of whom were men — with an average age of 60 about their eating habits.

Skipping breakfast, as defined by the study’s authors, meant the patient had nothing to eat before noon — excluding coffee and water — at least three times a week. A late dinner was defined as eating a meal within two hours before going to bed at least three times a week.

“People who work late may be particularly susceptible to having a late supper and then not being hungry in the morning.”

— Marcos Minicucci, study author 

By the end, the researchers concluded nearly 60 percent of participants skipped breakfast, roughly 50 percent ate late-night dinners and 41 percent adhered to both eating habits.

“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,” Marcos Minicucci, of São Paolo State University in Brazil and the study’s author, said.

“People who work late may be particularly susceptible to having a late supper and then not being hungry in the morning,” he continued, adding that “one in ten patients with STEMI dies within a year, and nutrition is a relatively inexpensive and easy way to improve prognosis.”

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Though the study focuses on the adverse effects of skipping breakfast and eating late dinners for STEMI patients, specifically, the former habit is not uncommon, even among those who are healthy. In fact, a 2011 survey from the NPD Group found 31 million Americans skip breakfast each day. Many who participated in the survey said at the time that time constraints, running late and being too busy, among other responses, were reasons they skipped what many medical professionals say is the most important meal of the day.

“It is said that the best way to live is to breakfast like a king,” Minicucci said, noting 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.” Ideally, per Minicucci, breakfast should have roughly 15 to 35 percent of a person’s total daily calorie intake.

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