Heart disease risk for men who often skip breakfast

heart diseaseThey say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and this popular phrase may actually be true. In fact, so important, it could save your life.

Regularly missing breakfast may put older men at risk of suffering from a fatal heart attack or coronary heart disease by as much as a quarter in comparison to their peers who eat a morning meal, according to the findings from a U.S. study.

The new research was published on Monday in the journal Circulation, and was derived from a study spanning 16 years between 1992 and 2008. Participating in the study were 26,902 male health professionals (i.e. dentists and veterinarians) aged between 45 and 82 years, who completed food frequency questionnaires.  To be involved in the study, the men could not have a history of cancer, coronary heart disease, angina, heart attack or stroke.

Researchers noted over the course of the follow-up period that 1,572 men had experienced a ‘first-time’ cardiac event such as a non-fatal heart attack or died due to coronary heart disease. This included 171 who said they skipped breakfast.

Therefore, over 7% of the men who skipped breakfast had heart attacks, compared to nearly 6% of those who did not skip breakfast.

Assessing all the data, taking into account factors such as smoking, drinking, diet and health problems like high blood pressure and obesity, researchers discovered that the men who admitted they did not eat breakfast were at a 27% higher risk of heart attack or death from coronary heart disease than those who said they did eat a morning meal.

Typically those who didn’t bother with a breakfast were younger, single, heavier drinkers, smokers, in full-time employment and who did not do as much exercise. A potential flaw with the study though could simply be that people who make sure they have a regular breakfast also tend to have a healthier lifestyle.

Eric Rimm, one of the study authors at the Harvard School of Public Health, says past research may have found a connection between breakfast and obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and other health problems seen as precursors to heart problems, “But no studies looked at long-term risk of heart attack”, he says.

However, lead author Leah Cahill, tried to explain possible reasons behind the new findings of the study: “Skipping breakfast may lead to one or more risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, which may in turn lead to a heart attack over time.”

The British Heart Foundation’s senior dietician, Victoria Taylor, attempted to alleviate some degree of panic, and said further research needs to be conducted – highlighting the fact no women were actually included in the study.

She commented on the study findings: “In the morning rush it can be all too easy to skip breakfast, but this study suggests this could have a bigger impact on our health than we might think. However, these researchers only looked at men aged over 45, so we would need to see further research to confirm that breakfast has the same impact on the heart health of other groups of people. What we do know is that a healthy and filling breakfast can make that mid-morning biscuit less tempting, as well as giving you another opportunity to widen the variety of foods in your diet. Wholegrain toast or cereals like porridge with low-fat milk are a good way to start the day. Try a sliced banana or dried fruit on top and you’ll be on your way to five-a-day before you’ve even left the house.”

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