Trying to improve heart health? Study says avoid evening eating

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Research shows women who eat more calories in the evening are more likely to have poorer heart health

There are a lot of tips on how to make your diet more heart healthy, but it may matter just as much when you are eating, not just what, a new study shows.

Heart disease is rampant worldwide. In the United States alone, heart disease accounts for about 1 in 5 deaths for women, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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New research suggests that what time of day women eat may put them at a greater risk for heart disease.

For every 1% increase in calorie intake after 6 p.m., heart health declined, the study showed.

The study looked at the heart health of 112 women, who were on average 33 years old. Researchers assessed the participants based on the American Heart Association's risk factors that include: eating healthy, physical activity, cholesterol and blood pressure.

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Participants also kept a log of what they ate for a week at the beginning of the study and again one year later.

The results concluded that the women who ate a higher portion of calories later in the day had overall poorer heart health.

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"So far, lifestyle approaches to prevent heart disease have focused on what we eat and how much we eat. These preliminary results indicate that intentional eating that is mindful of the timing and proportion of calories in evening meals may represent a simple, modifiable behavior that can help lower heart disease risk,” Nour Makarem, the study’s author, said.

Other findings include:

  • Women who consume more of their calories after 6 p.m. are more likely to have higher blood pressure.
  • Eating after 6 p.m. was also found to contribute to higher body mass index.
  • Eating more calories after 6 p.m. had a greater impact on the blood pressure of Hispanic women, even when adjusting for age and socioeconomic status.

"It is never too early to start thinking about your heart health whether you're 20 or 30 or 40 or moving into the 60s and 70s. If you're healthy now or if you have heart disease, you can always do more. That goes along with being heart smart and heart healthy,” Dr. Kristin Newby said.