Low carb diets and high blood pressure.
How does a low carb diet affect my high blood pressure?
If you, or a member of your family are on a diet that is low in carbohydrates and moderate in protein, then you are probably wondering whether there will be any change in your blood pressure (albeit high or low).
Laura Schoenfeld, a registered dietitian with a Master’s degree in Public Health, writes on her blog that blood pressure and lifestyle choices go hand in hand.
“To understand the effect of your lifestyle on your blood pressure, it is important to understand what high blood pressure is. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a serious and common condition that can lead to life-threatening diseases such as heart attack, stroke, heart or kidney failure, and more.”
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of arteries as it flows through them. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood from the heart to the body’s tissues.
While 1 in 3 adults who live in Westernized cultures such as South Africa and America have high blood pressure, this condition only affects 3% or less of hunter-gatherer populations that are following a traditional diet and lifestyle. This would suggest that hypertension is a disease of poor lifestyle choices, and one that can be effectively treated by using simple diet and behavioural changes.
Many people are sceptical – and rightfully so – about whether your diet can help to reduce high blood pressure. There are plenty of studies out there that advocate low-carbohydrate diets as a method of treating high blood pressure.
Why Does A Low Carb Diet Reduce Your Blood Pressure?
Reducing your carbohydrate intake to less than 50 grams per day will reduce your blood pressure by a variety of mechanisms.
Additionally, a low carbohydrate diet will also lower blood pressure by reducing the amount of fat you have deposited within your abdominal cavity (stomach fat). This type of fat (referred to as intra-abdominal fat) is different than the fat underneath your skin that you can pinch (subcutaneous fat).
Intra-abdominal fat influences a large amount of chemicals and hormones that can contribute to an elevation in blood pressure.
Most of the research done with regards to high blood pressure suggest that prescribed medicine is not the best way to treat this disease. Most health professionals recommend the following lifestyle changes:
- Reduce excessive carbohydrate intake, especially refined carbohydrates and sugarsStart by cutting out carbonated drinks, excessive amounts of tea and coffee and sugary drinks. This will not only help to lower your blood pressure, but it will help to control your blood sugar and most likely result in weight loss.
- Increase intake of beneficial minerals like potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
Rather than avoiding food sources high in sodium, focus on supplementing your consumption of beneficial minerals and vitamins. More important than overall sodium intake is the sodium-to-potassium ratio; thus, eating a high-potassium diet is a better strategy than eating a low-sodium diet.
- Eat grass-fed dairy products like ghee, butter, and cheese.
These products are rich in Vitamin K2, a very underrated nutrient. It helps to fight osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and more, so it’s definitely a nutrient you should be looking to get enough of no matter what your health situation.
- Eat a portion of fatty fish up to four times per week.
Fatty fish is high in essential omega-3 fats, and these fats have been shown to reduce the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular events in multiple studies.
Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, and trout are full of omega-3 fatty acids – good fats – unlike the bad saturated fat you find in most meat. These should be a staple in everyone’s heart-healthy diet.
In America a study has been done to test the effects of a low-carb diet on blood pressure in comparison to the effects of a well-known weight loss drug on blood pressure.
In the study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 146 obese or overweight adults were randomly divided into two groups. Many of the participants also had chronic health problems, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
The first group followed a low-carbohydrate (ketogenic diet), and the second group received a weight loss drug three times a day, plus counselling in following a low-fat diet over 48 weeks.
The results showed weight loss was similar in the two groups. The low-carb diet group lost an average of 9.5% of their body weight and the weight loss drug group lost an average of 8.5%.
But when researchers looked at changes in blood pressure, they found nearly half of those who followed the low-carbohydrate group had their blood pressure medication decreased or discontinued during the study, compared to only 21% of those in the weight loss drug group.
There is overwhelming evidence to support the fact that low-carbohydrate diets hold definite health benefits. Before you decide to try these recommendations, we advise you to speak to a health care professional about your existing medical conditions.
If you are interested in starting a carbohydrate controlled lifestyle, contact us for a free consultation!