Eating This for Breakfast Could Lower Your Heart Attack Risk, New Study Finds
Here's how to take charge of your heart health first thing in the morning.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in America and around the world. In fact, in the United States, CVD claims another life every 36 seconds, accounting for one in every four deaths in the nation. However, the American Heart Association (AHA) points out that roughly 80 percent of cardiovascular disease is believed to be preventable, using simple interventions such as eating a healthier diet and getting more exercise.
And based on new research, there may be one small change you can make in your diet that could have a staggering impact on your heart health. Experts say that eating this one thing for breakfast just a few days per week can significantly lower your heart attack risk, despite previous warnings regarding the food group. Read on to find out which breakfast food can slash your risk of CVD, and which similar food item has the opposite effect.
Eating yogurt for breakfast can lower your heart attack risk.
Dairy is a food group with a mixed reputation. Once hailed as a health hero that "does a body good," experts have more recently advised limiting your intake—especially when it comes to full-fat dairy products. However, Americans reportedly now consume 9 percent more dairy than they did in 1975, eating more cheese and yogurt, while drinking less milk.
Some research indicates that this is just what the doctor ordered. According to a December study conducted by researchers from the University of South Australia (UniSA) in partnership with the University of Maine, regularly incorporating yogurt into your diet is an effective way to lower risk of cardiovascular disease in those who suffer from hypertension. Using a questionnaire that probed the eating habits and health data of 915 individuals, they determined that habitually eating "even small amounts of yogurt" can make a difference in your risk of CVD and heart attack.
That's because yogurt can help lower your blood pressure.
The researchers observed that the beneficial results for heart health came courtesy of lower blood pressure. "High blood pressure is the number one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, so it's important that we continue to find ways to reduce and regulate it," UniSA researcher Alexandra Wade, PhD, said in a statement. "Dairy foods, especially yogurt, may be capable of reducing blood pressure."
And, though the researchers reported that even small portions can make a difference, there may be added benefits to having more. "For those who consumed yogurt regularly, the results were even stronger, with blood pressure readings nearly seven points lower than those who did not consume yogurt," they concluded.
Wade explained that this is because dairy foods "contain a range of micronutrients, including calcium, magnesium and potassium, all of which are involved in the regulation of blood pressure." She says yogurt may be especially helpful in lowering blood pressure because the fermentation process involved in making it yields certain bacteria that "promote the release of proteins which lowers blood pressure."
Studies say eating at least two servings of yogurt per week should do the trick.
So just how much yogurt is enough to make a difference for your heart health? According to a 2018 study published in the American Journal of Hypertension, eating a minimum of two servings per week was associated with lower cardiovascular risk in both men and women. "Participants consuming more than two servings a week of yogurt had an approximately 20 percent lower risk of major coronary heart disease or stroke during the follow-up period," the study concluded. Women who ate that amount of yogurt saw even greater results: In that group, more than two servings per week was associated with a 30 percent reduction in risk of heart attack.
Given the scale and longevity of the research, their work was one of the more comprehensive studies on the subject. "Here, we had a very large cohort of hypertensive men [18,000] and women [55,000], who were followed for up to 30 years. Our results provide important new evidence that yogurt may benefit heart health alone or as a consistent part of a diet rich in fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains," the researchers wrote.
For more health advice sent directly to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
However, you should only drink milk in moderation, experts say.
Though yogurt intake appears to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and hypertension, experts from the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) say that you may still want to limit how much full-fat milk you drink for the sake of your cardiovascular health.
"The consumption of dairy products has long been thought to increase the risk of death, particularly from coronary heart disease (CHD), cerebrovascular disease, and cancer, because of dairy's relatively high levels of saturated fat," ESC experts explain. "Yet evidence for any such link, especially among U.S. adults, is inconsistent. With the exception of milk, which appears to increase the risk of CHD, dairy products have been found to protect against both total mortality and mortality from cerebrovascular causes."
They ultimately advise that any guidelines to limit consumption of dairy products should be "relaxed," especially in the case of cheese and yogurt. The one exception? Full-fat milk. "Drinking of non-fat or low-fat milk should be recommended, especially for those who consume large quantities of milk," they urge.