The First Meal of the Day Could Save You from Heart Disease


Breakfast is the most important meal of the day—right? Everyone has read articles that say eating breakfast can help you lose weight, give you energy for the day, or help you focus more in school. Now, the American College of Cardiology released a study that provides evidence that skipping breakfast has a direct correlation to hardening of the arteries.

The study not only showed hardening or narrowing of the arteries due to a buildup of plaque (atherosclerosis) in those that skipped breakfast, but the people that skipped breakfast also had the greatest waist circumference, body mass index, blood pressure, blood lipids, and fasting glucose levels. Plaque buildup can lead to:

  • Coronary heart disease.
  • Greater risk for heart attacks.
  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD).
  • Chronic kidney disease.

“The study supports what most doctors already know – if you skip breakfast you probably make other dietary lifestyle choices that impact your overall health,” says Dr. Jeffrey Reichard, St. Elizabeth Physicians Cardiologist.

Start Making Changes Today
The good news is that many of the risk factors for heart disease or poor health are modifiable risk factors—it is never too late to make changes.

The first step is to eat breakfast. Dr. Reichard’s says, “It’s as much about when you eat as what you eat. Eat like a king at breakfast, a prince at lunch and a pauper at dinner.”

He further explains, “Calories are handled very differently by the body in the morning compared to the evening. In the morning the blood sugar spike from calorie consumption is much shorter in duration resulting in a lower release of insulin. This allows your body to utilize those morning calories as fuel. In the evening, the opposite is true. The same number of calories consumed at night result in a longer duration of blood sugar elevation because the pancreas is essentially sleeping. This causes those evening calories to be stored as fat.”

Dr. Reichard also points out that although you can’t control certain risk factors for heart disease like age, family history, or gender, you can control your lifestyle choices. He recommends you focus on these six factors.

  1. Diet – eat a Mediterranean diet, eat a healthy breakfast every day, and don’t eat after 7 p.m.
  2. Blood pressure – check your blood pressure regularly and keep it at the goal you have established with your doctor.
  3. Cholesterol – get your cholesterol checked regularly and keep it at the goal you have established with your doctor.
  4. Diabetes – if you have diabetes, work with your physician to monitor your glucose levels and have your A1C level checked every three months.
  5. Smoking – quit smoking.
  6. Activity – incorporate activity into your daily routine, even if it is just walking. Adding movement to your day can decrease many health risk factors.

If you think you are at risk for heart disease, talk to your primary care physician or a Cardiologist at St. Elizabeth Heart and Vascular Institute. If you need help finding a primary care physician, please call (800) 737-7900.