How to sabotage your heart’s nightly repair job

Wouldn’t it be great if we could take our bodies in for a spruce-up and repair — just as we might do with our cars before long road trips?

Well, you can! And it won’t cost you a thing or involve going to some fancy clinic or spa.

It turns out that your body’s “engine,” your heart, has a self-repair mechanism – one that starts up when your head hits the pillow for your nightly Zzzz’s.

But all too often, we’re sabotaging that heart fix-up. While it should be going on every single night, there’s a seemingly innocent habit that can stop it in its tracks.

Fortunately, that’s something you can correct right away!

‘Early bird special’ benefits

In some families, raiding the fridge at night seems to be a time-honored tradition!

Of course, we all know that eating cold pizza or finishing off that guacamole dip before bedtime isn’t such a great idea. But what about some yogurt or a bowl of cereal — that’s OK, right?

Well, it turns out that eating anything too close to bedtime can cause a lot more harm than that occasional (or not-so-occasional!) case of acid reflux. Because it could prevent your heart from repairing itself while you sleep!

A new study from researchers at the University of Alabama found that when lab animals ate at the “wrong times,” it threw this nightly cardiac overhaul off balance.

As the study’s co-author, professor Martin Young, put it, when food is eaten too late, it can make the heart become “dysfunctional.”

That means that a bedtime snack is all it might take to disrupt your heart’s regularly scheduled maintenance.

While this research is new, the concept of fasting — or limiting eating to certain times — has been around longer than those pints of Ben and Jerry’s or the freezers we keep them in!

Most all major religions call for days of fasting, and the health benefits of this practice have been studied for ages.

But you don’t have to starve yourself to get the benefits. All it might take is putting an invisible lock on your refrigerator door after a certain hour!

HSI advisory panel member Dr. Mark Stengler is a big fan of fasting – and that’s not just to benefit your heart, either.

Dr. Stengler warns that eating too late “when your digestive organs are supposed to be resting” will use up “energy and immunity that could be better served on cellular regeneration.”

In fact, many studies over the years have found that both “scheduled eating” and even short fasts of one or two days can do remarkable things for your health.

Research published two years ago in the journal JAMA Oncology followed over two thousand women ranging in age from 27 to 70 who had been treated for breast cancer, and it found that fasting for a minimum of 13 hours a night could significantly reduce the odds of them having a recurrence.

Other studies have found that just a couple of days of fasting can reduce body fat and “improve your LDL particle size,” which Dr. Stengler says is a much more “important risk factor” for heart disease than simply measuring LDL levels.

Now, if 13 hours sounds like a long time without food, it really isn’t… if you consider that eight of those hours are (or should be) spent sleeping.

Dr. Stengler calls it the “early bird special” — finishing up dinner by 7 p.m., hitting the sack by midnight and not eating again until breakfast at around 8 a.m. If you’re used to having some cereal, cookies, or even a heavier meal while you watch the late show, it might seem as if you’re depriving yourself at first. But after a short time, you’ll realize what the benefits of that type of fasting can do for your feeling of well-being.

Of course, if you have diabetes — especially if you’re on insulin — be sure to check with your doctor before starting any kind of restricted eating plan.

“Repairing the heart one “Z” at a time” University of Alabama at Birmingham, February 21, 2018, Newswise,