A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

For heart health, breakfast really is the most important meal of the day

Young family eating breakfast together - Heart health and benefits of breakfast

Eating a healthy breakfast lowers your risk for atherosclerosis.

The risk of developing atherosclerosis increases if you skip breakfast, according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Atherosclerosis is a thickening or hardening of the arteries caused by plaque buildup. It can lead to heart attack, peripheral artery disease, stroke and blood clots.

But atherosclerosis is not the only health risk that comes with skipping breakfast.

“People who skip breakfast are more likely to be obese, are more likely to be diabetic in the future and are also more likely to develop high blood pressure,” said Dr. Shereif Rezkalla, a Marshfield Clinic cardiologist.

Why skipping breakfast raises risk of atherosclerosis is not fully understood, Rezkalla said. Rezkalla said it is possible people who skip breakfast are hungrier throughout the day. Without a base meal in the morning, people may nibble more throughout the day on unhealthy snacks.

Beyond skipping breakfast, risk factors for developing atherosclerosis include high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, obesity and a lack of physical activity.

Doctor’s orders

Rezkalla said this recent information, combined with what is already known, leads him to advise patients to eat a healthy breakfast every morning, unless they are unable to for other health reasons.

“If you eat a good, healthy breakfast consistently, independent of things like smoking or body weight, your risk goes down for atherosclerosis in your neck, aortic and leg arteries,” he said. “Obviously, avoiding smoking and maintaining a healthy body weight are also important and will only add to your health.”

Spread the word

Rezkalla said the findings about eating breakfast are important to spread to as many people as possible because they represent a simple way to lower risk for a serious disease.

“It’s an issue that affects everyone,” Rezkalla said. “And it’s not just your mother telling you to eat breakfast anymore. The importance of it is scientifically proven.”

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