Eating dinner before 7 p.m. is ideal for reducing the risk of heart attack, suggests a study presented at the European Society of Cardiology in Rome.
Food intake late at night is associated with the increased risk of high blood pressure, which is a main factor of heart disease. On the other hand, an early dinner could help maintain a healthy blood pressure level overnight, and thereby ensures that the heart is in good condition.
According to Dr. Ebru Özpelit, an associate professor of cardiology at Dokuz Eylul University in Turkey, it is very important to have a hearty breakfast and a good lunch, however, dinner should be light and must be consumed before 7 p.m.
The study involved 721 hypertensive men and women with a mean age of 53 years old. The type of food eaten, amount of salt added to the meal, whether or not breakfast was taken and dinner time were noted by the researchers.
Among the four factors, having dinner late at night had the most impact on the participants' blood pressure level — it even increased overnight blood pressure more if compared to eating a meal that has a high amount of salt.
Özpelit said that eating two hours before bedtime keeps the body alert, increasing the level of stress hormones in the body even when sleeping at night. Ideally, blood pressure decreases during sleep, but for those who eat late at night it remains high, doubling the chances of hypertensive people to have a heart attack.
However, the study is still of great significance even to healthy people because it sheds light on the fact that having a meal at the right time of the day is as important as the kind of food eaten.
The researcher added that in this modern time, houses and other places remain bright, even when it is already dark outside. This longer period of illumination keeps people awake and extends the time they could possibly consume food. Dinner that is supposed to be taken during nightfall is postponed to a much later time at night. Skipping breakfast and late night food are some of the unhealthy practices that people do nowadays.
"This research suggests that eating a meal late at night may contribute to the failure of their blood pressure to reduce," said Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation. "This observation, which needs to be confirmed in further, carefully designed studies, suggests that eating early in the evening may help people to gain better control of their blood pressure."
Previous studies have also shown that an early dinner could help maintain a healthy blood sugar level, burn calories and decrease the risk of breast cancer.
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