Heavy meals can trigger a heart attack: Here’s how to prevent overeating and switch to a heart-healthy diet  |  Photo Credit: iStock Images
- Research suggests that heavy dinners can increase the risk of having a heart attack
- But changing eating habits can help reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke
- The following tips can help you create a daily meal plan that focuses on fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains while limiting intake of unhealthy foods
New Delhi: It’s easy to overeat, especially with today’s endless tasty food options and ever-increasing portion sizes. However, if you’re not paying attention to how much you eat, this common habit of overeating can get out of hand and lead to various health problems – ranging from excessive gas and bloating to excess body fat and increased risk of heart disease, stroke, etc. Research suggests that gluttony or heavy meals may also trigger a heart attack. This is especially true for people who are obese, have high cholesterol, hypertension, or are of advanced age.
Researchers have found that an oddly heavy meal may increase the risk of heart attack by about four times within two hours after eating. The study presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2000 reported that the trigger acts much like extreme physical exertion or outbursts of anger, especially in people who have pre-existing heart disease, such as coronary artery disease, or have suffered a heart attack in the past. Ahead of World Heart Day, we talked to Dr Aashish Aggarwal, HOD – Cardiology, Aakash Healthcare Super Speciality Hospital, New Delhi, about how heavy meals can act as a trigger for a heart attack and what can be done to reduce the risk of overeating while also adopting a heart-healthy diet.
How does eating a heavy meal increase the risk of a heart attack?
A heavy meal can increase the chance of a heart attack in several ways. Eating food and digesting it requires energy, which increases blood pressure due to increased oxygen requirements. This makes the heart pump more blood and creates an extra pressure on the organ. High blood pressure may also separate cholesterol plaques in the wall of arteries, leading to clot formation that can block a blood vessel and trigger either a heart attack or stroke. Besides, a high-fat meal harms the function of the endothelium, the inner lining of arteries. The rise in insulin, a hormone that helps the body burn energy, may also affect the inner lining of the blood vessels after a large meal that can lead to a heart attack. Increased level of insulin blood decreases the normal relaxation of the coronary arteries. Eating a large amount of food in one sitting leads to higher levels of the stress hormone norepinephrine in the body. This can raise blood pressure and heart rate, triggering a heart attack.
What you can do to avoid eating large meals and switch to a heart-healthy diet
Though Indian food is healthy with a well-balanced proportion of carbohydrates, protein, and other essential nutrients, the popularity of deep-fried foods and curries with cream or butter or cooked in coconut oil continues to pose the risk. Here are a few things you can do to avoid having heavy meals, make the right food choices and protect yourself from cardiovascular disease, and thus possible heart attacks:
- Watch out for all items that can potentially damage the heart: These include refined and processed foods such as flour, meat, packed food, canned fruits, aerated beverages, etc. All these foods have extra sugar, salt, trans fats that damage the heart. Instead, opt for whole wheat grains or cereals, pulses, peas, fresh fruits, and vegetables. However, choose whole fruits and vegetables wisely if you are a diabetic. Include berries, oranges, sweet limes, apple, and pear which are less on sugar and high on fibre.
- Spread food intake throughout the day and in limited amounts: Eating three full-course meals can add pressure on the stomach and the heart. Aim for six small meals per day. Ensure that the dinner is light and easy-to-digest, avoid having heavy foods or gas-forming foods such as beans, cauliflower for dinner.
Though Indian food is healthy with a well-balanced proportion of carbohydrates, protein and other essential nutrients, the popularity of deep-fried foods and curries with cream or butter or cooked in coconut oil continues to pose the risk.
A diet chart for a healthy heart
Here’s a sample diet chart suggested by the doctor that will help keep your heart healthy:
|Morning (empty stomach)||Take 5-6 almonds and 4-5 walnuts with a glass of warm water|
|Breakfast||A bowl (30 g) of any Indian traditional homemade breakfast such as poha, boiled moong, upma, idli, dosa, dhokla, paratha, etc. Use minimum oil during cooking. Take a glass of milk or curd, or a protein-rich food such as boiled egg or an omelette with a maximum of 2 egg whites|
|Mid-morning||100 g of any seasonal fruit. If you are diabetic, avoid bananas, mangoes, custard apples, chikoos, and grapes|
|Lunch||2 rotis (without ghee) or 1 medium bowl of rice (50 g), 1 cup of vegetable curry, 1 medium bowl of curd and dal each with a big serving of salad. Replace dal with a chicken or fish for non-vegetarians|
|Evening||A cup of green tea or coffee with a small bowl (50 g) of murmura/bhel/chaat/khakhra|
|Late evening||A bowl of soup or a fruit|
|Dinner||2 multigrain rotis or 2 jowar/bajra, bhakris with a bowl of vegetable curry, a plate of salad, and a bowl of dal or curd. Alternately, one can have a bowl of khichdi or kadhi rice|
|Bedtime||1 cup of turmeric milk with dry ginger powder|
Consider using this chart to help you get started on a heart-healthy diet.
Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purpose only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before starting any fitness programme or making any changes to your diet.