Is Intermittent Fasting Good for Your Heart?

fasting for heart health

Each of your organs plays a crucial role in sustaining your body, but none are as vital as your heart. The constant beating of your heart circulates oxygen-rich blood to each organ, muscle, and tissue, down to the very last cell. When your heart becomes damaged or begins to decline in health, the repercussions can rapidly influence your entire body.

Unfortunately, poor heart health is at an all-time high in the US and other countries. So, if achieving proper heart health isn’t on the top of your to-do list, you may need to adjust your priorities. 

Fortunately, intermittent fasting is a simple way to significantly improve your heart health. To more effectively understand just how positive fasting for heart health can be, continue reading. 

How Common is Heart Disease?

intermittent fasting and heart health

In the US, a heart attack happens every 40 seconds. Every year, nearly 805,000 Americans have a heart attack, and 200,000 are a second heart attack. About one in five heart attacks is silent, meaning you might not even know you’re having a heart attack until the damage is done.

Heart attacks aren’t the only heart health issue plaguing America. Heart disease tops the list as a leading cause of death in the US. It ranks above cancer and accidents for the number of deaths caused per year. Roughly one in four deaths is caused by heart disease, and the condition costs the United States over $200 million in healthcare services, medication, and loss of productivity. 

How Intermittent Fasting Improves Heart Health

No doubt you already know stress, eating habits, and exercise all affect your heart health. However, lifestyle choices that impact your blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure all have an enormous impact as well. These factors pose a risk to the overall wellness and effectiveness of the heart and can be life-threatening when left untreated.

Intermittent fasting can be a heart-healthy lifestyle change because:

When co-occurring conditions, such as insulin resistance, obesity or diabetes are combatted through fasting, you have a better chance of improving your heart health overall. By improving your health in other areas of the body, including the blood that circulates through your heart, you can experience these benefits tenfold.

Intermittent Fasting and Cardiotoxicity Prevention

Intermittent fasting may help prevent cardiotoxicity. Cardiotoxicity is a condition that develops if your heart muscle gets damaged. When your heart muscles become damaged, it’s more difficult for your heart to effectively pump blood through your body. 

 Infection, viruses, medications, and chemotherapy can all cause сardiotoxicity. However, your heart muscles can also be damaged by more preventable conditions, like high blood pressure and diabetes.

Some conditions can be genetic, but your eating habits and lifestyle play a significant role in your health and wellness. Research shows fasting may help protect against Dox-induced cardiotoxicity, and can keep your heart strong and healthy. 

Fasting helps prevent a build-up cholesterol, fat, and other substances found in your blood. Plaque can harden and narrow your arteries over time, and weaken your heart muscles. Fasting can help your body break down and utilize these substances. By eliminating excess fat and cholesterol in the bloodstream, fasting helps to keep your heart strong and prevent cardiotoxicity. 

The Link Between Coronary Heart Disease and Intermittent Fasting

You can develop coronary heart disease or coronary artery disease when your arteries become diseased or damaged by plaque buildup and inflammation.The most common heart condition is coronary heart disease – roughly 18.2 million adults aged 20 or older have coronary heart disease, and over 360,000 people die from the disease each year. 

With intermittent fasting, your body gets a chance to reset your system, so your blood sugar and insulin can become balanced before your next meal.

When you pay attention to how much and what types of food you eat, you can control how much fat and cholesterol you accumulate over time. So, intermittent fasting can help to reduce plaque buildup that can result in deadly coronary heart disease. 

How Can Fasting Fight Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is a collection of risk factors that increase your risk of heart disease and other health problems, like type 2 diabetes and stroke. The term “metabolic” refers to the biochemical processes that are part of your  body’s natural functioning; eating, energy creation, and the circulation of oxygen-rich blood. 

fasting and heart health

Your risk factors for developing metabolic syndrome include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar
  • Excess body fat
  • High cholesterol
  • Insulin resistance 
  • Inactive lifestyle

According to researchers at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, Poland, fasting for heart health can be effective in fighting metabolic syndrome. When you eat regularly, you don’t give your body a chance to rest and reset your sensitivity to sugars between meals, which causes your body to constantly produce insulin. Also, your blood sugar will stay elevated and if you combine that with poor food choices, you’ll be more likely to develop excess body fat and high cholesterol.

If you fast, it allows your body to rest. That way, you’ll utilize and store insulin more effectively, break down and utilize sugar in your blood, and improve the other lifestyle factors that contribute to the health of your heart. Combined, these benefits help fight metabolic syndrome.

What are the Side Effects?

Intermittent fasting doesn’t have life-threatening or serious side effects. Typically, the most common side effects of fasting include hunger, fatigue, low blood sugar, and possible changes in your bowel movements while your body adjusts. Intermittent fasting has more benefits than risks when it comes to your heart health.

While short-term fasting is safe, longer fasts can cause you to have an electrolyte imbalance, and depleted sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium left. If that’s left untreated you could develop arrhythmias, or an irregular heartbeat. 

Arrhythmia is common and is treatable by a medical professional, but, if you decide to try long fasts and begin feeling chest pain, dizziness or fluttering in your chest, you should consult with your doctor immediately. 

It’s vital that you stay hydrated to lower your risk of an electrolyte imbalance. In addition to water, try drinking bone broth, it’s an excellent way to  replenish your essential minerals. Bone broth has calcium, magnesium, sodium, and it can help curb your hunger pangs, and keep your body balanced. Also, an electrolyte supplement taken once a day can do the trick. 

When You Shouldn’t Fast?

Despite its many benefits, intermittent fasting plans may not be for you. If you have diabetes, are on blood sugar lowering medication or other drugs, or have low blood pressure, check with your doctor before you adopt the intermittent fasting plan. Additionally, there is rising popularity of dry fasting. Dry fasting increases risk for dehydration, which when mild, can impair our heart function and increase risk for cardiovascular events. It is best to stay hydrated and drink water frequently throughout a fast. 

Intermittent Fasting Regimens for Heart Health

There are different regimens for intermittent fasting, including two most popular:

  • The 16:8 protocol, also known as time-restricted feeding. The majority of studies on IF and heart health are based on this regimen.
  • 5:2 fasting plan, where you eat normally for 5 days, then eat less than 500 calories for 2 days.

Remember, you’ll get the best results if you eat fresh, natural whole foods like on the Mediterranean diet. During your 8-hour eating window, choose fish, nuts, low fat dairy, leafy greens, fruits, and whole grains. These are all low in refined sugar, saturated fats, and a meal plan rich in these foods are shown to reduce your risk for heart disease. 

Begin Boosting Your Heart Health With Intermittent Fasting

Excellent heart health begins with incorporating healthier lifestyle changes. Perhaps one of the most positive changes you can incorporate is intermittent fasting. 

To lower fat and cholesterol, help your body utilize and store insulin, and decrease your risk of  heart conditions that impact your health and happiness, begin your intermittent fasting journey today. 

Author's bio

Grace Trumpfeller

Grace Trumpfeller

Grace is an avid health and wellness advocate with nearly a decade of experience in the diet and nutrition industry. With a vast background in journalism and creative writing, her core focus is to empower individuals to reclaim their health and vitality by providing expert advice rooted in ...