Want a healthy heart? Turn off the TV and eat a good breakfast, says a new study that found adults who ate a regular breakfast and spent less time watching TV had healthier arteries. Findings will be presented March 17 at the American College of Cardiology’s 68th Annual Scientific Session and reinforce how simple lifestyle choices help reduce risk for heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
Conducted in Corinthia, Greece, this study included 2,000 older adults who completed detailed questionnaires about their health and lifestyle. Participants also underwent two tests that measured the stiffening and thickness of their arteries, which is linked to increased risk for heart events.
Participants ranged from healthy individuals to those with cardiovascular risk factors or diagnosed heart disease. Their average age was 63.
After analysis, researchers found that participants who watched more than 21 hours of TV a week were nearly twice as likely to have plaque buildup in the arteries compared with those who watched 7 hours or fewer. Those watching more than 21 hours of TV a week were also 68 percent more likely to have high blood pressure and 50 percent more likely to have diabetes.
“Our results emphasize the importance of avoiding prolonged periods of sedentary behavior,” said Sotirios Tsalamandris, MD, a cardiologist at the First Cardiology Clinic at National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece, and the study’s lead author. “These findings suggest a clear message to hit the ‘off’ button on your TV and abandon your sofa. Even activities of low energy expenditure, such as socializing with friends or housekeeping activities, may have a substantial benefit to your health compared to time spent sitting and watching TV.”
In the second part of the analysis, researchers looked at the association between dietary habits and heart health. They found that participants who ate a high-energy breakfast (at least 20 percent of daily calories) had significantly healthier arteries than those who ate little or no breakfast.
Specifically, arterial stiffness was abnormal in 15% of those who skipped breakfast, compared to only 9% of those with a hearty breakfast. Similarly, dangerous plaque was found in 28% of the people who skipped breakfast vs. only 18% of those who consumed a high-energy breakfast.
Based on findings, authors encourage a hearty breakfast as part of a healthy lifestyle. “Eating a breakfast constituting more than 20 percent of the total daily caloric intake may be of equal or even greater importance than a person’s specific dietary pattern, such as whether they follow the Mediterranean diet, a low-fat diet or other dietary pattern,” said Tsalamandris.
When taken together, both study findings remind us about the importance of simple lifestyle choices as they relate to heart health.
“Environmental and lifestyle factors are important but underestimated risk factors for cardiovascular diseases,” said Tsalamandris. “These two studies emphasize the many factors that impact heart disease and the need for holistic preventive approaches.”
Due to study design, authors note that their recent findings do not prove cause and effect. However, studies continue to show that a healthy diet, regular physical activity and limited sedentary time help protect heart health. Over time, these choices have been shown to have a big impact in promoting better health and reducing risk for heart disease and heart disease.