The European Society of Cardiology Congress 2011 was presented with results of a study consisting of 1,000 patients which indicates that there may be a link to increased risk of stroke if you eat and go to bed too soon after the meal. No cause or effect is proven but researchers indicate that if you wait for one hour after eating before going to sleep there is a 66% lower risk of having a stroke compared to those who have just eaten and gone to bed.Researcher Cristina-Maria Kastorini, MSc, a nutritionist at the University of Ioannina Medical School in Greece, also adds that for every additional 20 minutes you stay awake minimizes your risk by a further 10%. The study found that people who ate and then did not go to bed for between 70 minutes and 2 hours lowered their risk of having a stroke by 76%. However further benefits were not achieved by waiting longer before going to bed. Presently it is unknown why this happened.
Patients involved in the study came from three distinct groups. The groups were 500 healthy people, 250 had acute coronary syndrome and 250 people who had already had a stroke. Acute coronary syndrome is a heart disease which causes the blood flow to the heart to reduce because of blocked arteries. This common disease leaves the patient feeling tightness in the chest and can lead to heart attacks.
The participants were required to fill in detailed questionnaires. The questionnaires dealt with eating and sleeping habits, including times. Other risk factors relating to heart disease and stroke were allowed for in the study. These factors included sex, age, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, whether the person smoked or not, those with a family history of heart disease and physical condition.
It was found that people who waited for an hour after their meal before going to bed reduced their risk of having a stroke by 66%, if they waited between 70 minutes and two hours their likelihood of having a stroke was reduced by 76%. There may be a link between eating and going to bed too soon and acute coronary syndrome but that requires further study. Although people who ate and then went to bed quickly appeared to have an increased risk of stroke it must be said that perhaps there is some other, as yet unknown characteristic causing the increased risk. Further research is required to eliminate this possibility.
Why does the risk of stroke reduce if we do not eat before going to bed?
David Holmes, MD, is a professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn., and is also the President of the American College of Cardiology and he says, "When we eat, blood sugar changes, cholesterol levels change, blood flow changes. All these temporary changes may affect stroke risk”. He also accepts that further research is required by saying, "While this work only involved a relatively small number of patients, time duration between dinner and sleep is something we need to study further".
The researcher, Cristina-Maria Kastorini, MSc, accepts that the study did not attempt to find the reason for the reduced risk of stroke amongst those who did not eat close to bed time but says that previous research indicates that an increased risk of reflux disease is associated with eating too near to bedtime. There is a link between that and sleep apnea which is a risk factor for a stroke.