Eating an energy-rich breakfast and spending less time watching TV can lower your heart disease risk. The findings come from a two-pronged study and found that these simple lifestyle changes are enough to reduce artery stiffness, which is a contributing factor to heart disease.
Study lead author Dr. Sotirios Tsalamandris explained, “Environmental and lifestyle factors are important but underestimated risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. These two studies emphasize the many factors that impact heart disease and the need for holistic preventive approaches.”
The researchers looked at markers of heart health along with other environmental and lifestyle factors in 2,000 people from Greece. The group included individuals who are healthy and those with heart disease risk factors. Participants were over the age of 40 with an average age of 63.
Participants answered detailed questionnaires regarding their physical activity and eating habits along with undergoing non-invasive tests to determine artery health. The first test measured the speed of pressure waves that move along the arteries and the second test was an artery ultrasound to determine arterial wall thickness.
The first prong of the study divided participants into one of three groups based on hours of TV watching. After adjusting for heart disease factors and heart disease status, the researchers found that those who watched the most TV were more likely to have plaque buildup along the arteries compared to those who watched the least amount of TV.
Tsalamandris added, “Our results emphasize the importance of avoiding prolonged periods of sedentary behavior. 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.”
The researchers also noted that a high amount of TV watching was associated with other heart disease risk factors including high blood pressure and diabetes. “Since our results emphasize the clinical benefit of low energy expenditure activities, performing recreational activities, weight lifting, stretching bands, or treadmill exercise while watching TV may be a healthy alternative,” Tsalamandris continued.
In the second prong of the study, the participants were divided into groups based on how much of their daily caloric intake came from breakfast. Foods commonly consumed in a high-energy breakfast included milk, cheese, cereal, bread, and honey. Low-energy breakfasts typically included coffee, low-fat milk, butter, honey, olives, and fruit.
Those who consumed high-energy breakfasts generally had healthier arteries. Arterial stiffness was more so associated with not eating breakfast or eating low-energy breakfasts.
“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,” Tsalamandris explained.
It’s important to note that the participants mainly adhered to the Mediterranean style diet, so further research is needed to determine whether there would be similar findings if individual’s adhered to other types of diets. It is generally advised to avoid a sedentary lifestyle and eat healthy to reduce the risk of heart disease and keep arteries healthy.