Bowl of eggs for breakfast which is important for heart health

How breakfast is important for heart disease

Written on February 27, 2023 by Sendra Yang, PharmD, MBA. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Table of contents

You have probably heard over and over that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. There are many reasons why this saying is true. Breakfast literally translates to “breaking the fast,” which is the first meal after a long fasting period during your sleep. A healthy breakfast can help you start your day with energy and nutrients to nourish your body. A study found that participants who never consumed breakfast had 14% less daily total energy intake when compared to those who consumed breakfast every day [1]. The American Heart Association has stated that one of the many benefits of eating breakfast is the possible reduced risk of heart disease [2].

What is heart disease?

The term heart disease encompasses a variety of conditions that affect the heart [3,4]. Cardiovascular disease is a more medically technical term for heart disease [5]. Examples of heart disease include coronary artery diseases or blood vessel diseases, irregular heartbeat illnesses, and conditions involving the heart muscles and valves [4].

Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States, regardless of sex or race. One in every five deaths reported in 2020 in the US was due to heart disease [6]. The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease, which led to approximately 380,000 deaths in the US in 2020. One person dies of cardiovascular disease every 34 seconds in the US [6].

Skipping breakfast is not so great

If you are skipping breakfast because your morning routine is too hectic, you should consider making time to eat. Including breakfast makes sense if you are trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle and heart. People who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight, have chronic health conditions, smoke, not exercise regularly or get adequate nutrients, and eat more calories and added sugars throughout the day [2]. Skipping or having an inadequate breakfast can also increase the risk of developing heart disease [1,7-10].

Breakfast may reduce the risk of developing heart disease

Eating breakfast may help your heart health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and death related to the condition [1,7-10]. Research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology examined cardiovascular risks and mortality related to eating versus not eating breakfast [1]. In this large study of 6,550 adults, researchers found that those who skipped breakfast had a higher risk of developing heart disease and a 2.5-fold increased risk of cardiovascular death compared to those who had breakfast daily [1]. Another study suggests that people who regularly skip breakfast are about 21% more likely to experience cardiovascular disease-related events or die from it compared to people who regularly eat breakfast [7].

What you eat is essential to overall cardiovascular health

Breakfast can help reduce heart disease, but it is also important to consider what you are actually eating no matter what the time of day. The Dietary Guidance to Improve Cardiovascular Health by the American Heart Association recommends [11]:

  • Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Choosing foods with whole grains
  • Choosing healthy sources of proteins and fats (legumes and nuts, fish and seafood, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, and lean cuts of meat and poultry)
  • Using liquid plant oils (olive oil)
  • Choosing minimally processed foods instead of ultra-processed
  • Minimizing beverages and foods with added sugars
  • Using little or no salt in foods
  • Limiting alcohol intake

Eating a healthy, well-balanced breakfast and other meals can help reduce cardiovascular diseases and improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Foods rich in whole grains are associated with healthy adult blood pressure [12]. Adults who ate foods rich in whole grains had lower blood pressure and incidence of cardiovascular disease. Whole-grain foods not only play a role in lowering blood pressure but also lowering LDL cholesterol levels in obese adults. Foods rich in HDL cholesterol, such as nuts, olive oil, avocado, fatty salmon, rainbow trout, and tuna, can also help reduce LDL cholesterol levels [13]. Breakfast high in proteins can increase feelings of fullness and sustain energy throughout the day while promoting physical activity to reduce the risk of developing heart disease.

Heart health is more than just eating breakfast

The lifestyle choices you make all contribute to your risks for cardiovascular diseases. In addition to eating habits, these risks include smoking, drinking, reduced physical activity, and altered sleeping patterns [10]. Eating breakfast may be helpful, but you may also want to consider implementing other ways to reduce your cardiovascular disease risks. To help you reduce your risks consider starting an exercise regimen and losing weight. You should speak with a healthcare provider about your chances of heart disease and how to minimize them.

General wellness with Everlywell

Everlywell provides access to a telehealth option through Virtual Care Visits to ensure you meet your healthy resolutions for the new year. You can schedule a video call with a certified healthcare provider from the comfort of your home. Your provider will discuss your symptoms, health concerns, and goals with you. They will also create with you a personalized care plan that may include lab testing, one-time prescriptions, and lifestyle recommendations.

You may also be interested in checking in on your heart health with the Heart Health Test, which measures total cholesterol, HDL, calculated LDL, triglycerides, hs-CRP and HbA1c.

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  1. Rong S, Snetselaar LG, Xu G, et al. Association of skipping breakfast with cardiovascular and all-cause mortality. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2019;73(16):2025-2032. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2019.01.065. URL.
  2. How to make breakfast a healthy habit. American Heart Association. URL. Published January 24, 2023. Accessed February 23, 2023.
  3. About heart disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Published July 12, 2022. Accessed February 23, 2023.
  4. Heart disease. Mayo Clinic. URL. Published August 25, 2022. Accessed February 23, 2023.
  5. What is cardiovascular disease? American Heart Association. URL. Published May 4, 2022. Accessed February 23, 2023.
  6. Heart disease facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Published October 14, 2022. Accessed February 23, 2023.
  7. Ofori-Asenso R, Owen AJ, Liew D. Skipping breakfast and the risk of cardiovascular disease and death: a systematic review of prospective cohort studies in primary prevention settings. J Cardiovasc Dev Dis. 2019;6(3):30. doi: 10.3390/jcdd6030030. URL.
  8. Chen H, Zhang B, Ge Y, et al. Association between skipping breakfast and risk of cardiovascular disease and all cause mortality: a meta-analysis. Clin Nutr. 2020;39(10):2982-2988. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2020.02.004. URL.
  9. Sun Y, Rong S, Liu B, et al. Meal skipping and shorter meal intervals are associated with increased risk of all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality among US adults. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2023;123(3):417-426.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2022.08.119. URL.
  10. Lee HJ, Jang J, Lee SA, Choi DW, Park EC. Association between breakfast frequency and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease risk: a cross-sectional study of KNHANES data, 2014-2016. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019;16(10):1853. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16101853. URL.
  11. 2021 dietary guidance to improve Cardiovascular Health: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association.URL. Accessed February 23, 2023.
  12. Tighe P, Duthie G, Vaughan N, et al. Effect of increased consumption of whole-grain foods on blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk markers in healthy middle-aged persons: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;92(4):733-40. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2010.29417. URL.
  13. Low cholesterol diet - StatPearls - NCBI bookshelf. URL. Accessed February 23, 2023.
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