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Did you know eating heavy meals can increase your risk of heart attacks?

Updated on:29 September 2020, 10:51am IST
Heavy meals put a lot of pressure on the heart, especially when had for dinner, increasing your likelihood of a heart attack. Read on to know more.
Dr Aashish Aggarwal
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Avoid large and heavy meals to take care of your heart. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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The swanky buffet restaurant may have opened up again, but beware of going back for seconds or thirds. Research has shown that heavy meals can act as a trigger for a heart attack. This is especially true for a person who has had a heavy dinner or for people who are obese, have high cholesterol, hypertension or are of an advanced age.

An oddly-heavy meal can increase your risk of heart attack by about four times within two hours after eating, researchers have found. The trigger acts much like extreme physical exertion or outbursts of anger, especially in people who have a pre existing heart disease, such as coronary artery disease or have suffered a heart attack in the past.

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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 continue to pose the risk.

Why do heavy meals increase heart attack risk?
There are several ways that a heavy meal can increase the chance of a heart attack. Eating food and digesting it requires energy that 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, triggering either heart attack or stroke. Besides, a high-fat meal harms the function of the endothelium, the inner lining of arteries.

heart attack after heavy meal
Be aware of what to do in case there is an emergency: Image courtesy: Shutterstock

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 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, and may trigger heart attack.

Certain foods can negatively impact heart health
All items that can potentially damage the heart are mostly refined and processed foods, including flour and meat, packed food, canned fruits, aerated beverages etc. All these foods have extra sugar, salt, and trans-fat that damage the heart.

Include wholewheat or wholegrain cereals, pulses, peas, fruits, and vegetables in your diet. However, choose whole fruits and vegetables wisely if you are diabetic. Include berries, oranges, sweet limes, apple, and pear which are less in sugar and high on fibre.

Spread food intake across the day and in limited amounts. Eating three full-course meals can add pressure on the stomach and the heart. Plan six small meals per day or two meals with breaks. Ensure that your dinner is light and easy-to-digest–and  avoid having heavy foods or gas-forming foods such as beans, cauliflower for dinner.

Follow this simple diet for a healthy heart

Morning (empty stomach): 5-6 almonds and 4-5 walnuts with a glass of warm water.

Breakfast: A bowl (30 grams) of any Indian traditional homemade breakfast such as poha, boiled moong, upma, idli, dosa, dhokla, or paratha. 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 gram of any seasonal fruit. If you are a diabetic, avoid bananas, mangoes, custard apples, chikoos, and grapes.

heart attack after heavy meal
Keep your heart happy! Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

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.

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Dr Aashish Aggarwal Dr Aashish Aggarwal

Dr Aashish Aggarwal HOD Cardiologist Aakash Healthcare Super Speciality Hospital