Intermittent fasting heart disease - Understanding Intermittent Fasting and Its Connection to Heart Health - 22/Mar/2024

Intermittent fasting heart disease – Understanding Intermittent Fasting and Its Connection to Heart Health – 22/Mar/2024

Understanding Intermittent Fasting and Its Connection to Heart Health

Intermittent fasting—characterized by periods of voluntary abstinence from food and drink—is a dietary approach that has gained prominent attention over the past several years. This eating pattern comes in various forms, such as the 16/8 method, where one fasts for 16 hours and eats during an 8-hour window, or the 5:2 method, which involves normal eating for five days and significantly reduced calorie intake on two non-consecutive days of the week. Beyond weight management, research indicates that intermittent fasting might hold beneficial impacts on cardiovascular health, including the potential to reduce risk factors associated with heart disease.

The Impact of Intermittent Fasting on Heart Disease Risk Factors

Cholesterol Levels and Blood Pressure

Cholesterol levels and blood pressure are critical factors in developing heart disease. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol often referred to as ‘good cholesterol,’ helps to clear fat from the bloodstream, whilst low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or ‘bad cholesterol,’ can lead to plaque formation in the arteries. Studies have shown that intermittent fasting can lead to changes in lipid profiles, including reductions in LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as possible increases in HDL cholesterol.

Additionally, intermittent fasting may contribute to lowering blood pressure. Elevated blood pressure is a significant risk factor for both heart attacks and strokes. Fasting periods induce physiological responses that promote blood pressure reduction, potentially through weight loss and hormonal adaptations such as increased nitric oxide availability, which aids in vasodilation.

Inflammation and Hear Disease

Systemic inflammation is another contributor to cardiovascular disease. Intermittent fasting has been shown to reduce markers of inflammation, such as C-reactive protein, which is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. The reduction in inflammation may also be related to altering gut microbiota and decreasing oxidative stress — both of which are currently areas of active research.

Autophagy and Cardiac Health

Intermittent fasting might also benefit heart health by promoting autophagy—a cellular waste-removal process that breaks down and recycles dysfunctional proteins and organelles. Autophagy is crucial for maintaining cardiac function, as it helps to clear out damaged components within heart cells which could otherwise contribute to heart disease or cardiac aging.

Heart Rhythm and Intermittent Fasting

Preliminary results from observational studies have suggested there may be a link between intermittent fasting and a lower risk of atrial fibrillation, a common heart rhythm disorder. However, this area requires further study to establish a clear connection and understand any potential mechanisms.

Weight Loss and Heart Disease

Often associated with intermittent fasting is weight loss – a pivotal factor in maintaining heart health, especially for those suffering from obesity-related conditions. Fat loss alleviates stress on the cardiovascular system by reducing visceral fat, which is linked with increased inflammation and various cardiovascular risk factors.

Limitations and Considerations in Existing Research

Despite these promising findings connecting intermittent fasting with heart health improvements, further research is necessary to fully determine the long-term impacts and effectiveness of these diets for specific population groups.

Recommendations from Healthcare Professionals

Most health professionals will stress the importance of a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein sources, and the minimization of processed foods, regardless of one’s eating pattern. Those with existing medical conditions or who are taking medications should speak with their healthcare provider before beginning any intermittent fasting regime.


  • Studies have shown reductions in ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol levels during intermittent fasting regimes.
  • Intermittent fasting may improve blood pressure readings in individuals at risk for hypertension.
  • Markers of inflammation have been observed to decrease on an intermittent fasting diet.
  • Evidence suggests that autophagy from intermittent fasting could support healthier heart cells.
  • Caution is advised for individuals with existing health conditions when adopting intermittent fasting as it may require adjusting medication or close monitoring.
  • Image Description

    An image depicts a silhouette of a healthy human heart overlaid with a clock face representing the concept of intermittent fasting time periods. The background features faded images of healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains providing a holistic view of lifestyle choices that contribute to heart health.