A late – night meal keeps the body on ‘ high alert

Eating late at night is putting millions of people in danger of heart attacks and strokes , experts warn.

A late – night meal keeps the body on ‘ high alert ’ when it should be winding down , researchers found .

Heart experts have advised that adults should never eat within two hours of bedtime – and ideally, nothing after 7 pm .

In a healthy person , blood pressure drops by at least 10 per cent when they go to sleep .

Millions of people are putting themselves at higher risk of a heart attack or stroke by eating after 7 pm , researchers have warned .

But the results of a study of more than 700 people with high blood pressure found that eating within two hours of bedtime meant their levels stayed high .

Experts think this is because eating releases a rush of stress hormones when the body should be starting to relax.

People who do not see their blood pressure fall at night are known as ‘ non- dippers ’ – and have a much higher rate of heart – related death.

Late eaters were nearly three times more likely to be non- dippers , the Turkish researchers found .

Researcher , Dr Ebru Özpelit , presenting her results at the European Society of Cardiology congress in Rome , said , “ If we eat late at night , the body essentially remains on high alert as during the day , rather than relaxing for sleep. ”

Stress hormones are secreted , causing blood pressure not to decrease during sleep , which should normally happen .

Dr Özpelit, from the Dokuz Eylül University in Turkey , tracked 721 people diagnosed with high blood pressure , with an average age of 53.

She found that those who ate within two hours of going to bed were 2 . 8 times more likely to retain high blood pressure overnight .

Some 9 . 4 million people in the UK are diagnosed with high blood pressure, which is also known as hypertension .

They are already at a higher risk of heart disease , but if their blood pressure does not fall at night , that risk increases to a far higher level.

Experts estimate that 40 per cent of patients with hypertension are non- dippers – potentially 3 . 76 million people in Britain – putting them at serious risk of major heart problems .

A late – night meal keeps the body on ‘ high alert ’ when it should be winding down , increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke.

Dr Özpelit says it is more dangerous if blood pressure doesn ’ t drop by more than 10 per cent as this increases cardiovascular risk and these patients have more heart attacks, strokes and chronic disease .

But even healthy people with normal blood pressure should take note of the findings .

How we eat may be as important as what we eat .

She advised that people do not skip breakfast , eat lunch , and keep dinner to a small meal.

Eating breakfast and lunch is important but dinner must not be later than 7 o ’ clock in the evening .

The findings add to a growing body of evidence which suggests keeping all meals to within a fixed time – and fasting at night – can have a wide range of health benefits.

Previous research has found that an early dinner reduces the risk of breast cancer, lowers blood sugar levels , and helps burn off calories. Experts think part of the reason is that the body evolved to expect meals much earlier in the day – because people went to sleep when it got dark .

Professor Peter Weissberg , medical director of the British Heart Foundation , said this research suggests that eating a meal late at night may contribute to the failure of their blood pressure to reduce .

It is normal for blood pressure to reduce overnight , even in people with high blood pressure.

However , in some , their blood pressure remains elevated throughout the night putting them at potentially higher risk of future complications.

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