Cardiovascular diseases top the list of premature deaths in developed countries, and high blood pressure or hypertension is the most important risk factor that increases the chances of suffering from them. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 67 million Americans have high blood pressure, and about half of these people don’t have it under control. In the US in 2009, high blood pressure was cited as the primary or contributing factor in more than 348,000 deaths, costing the country more than $50 billion. Therefore, controlling it is of great importance in terms of public health.
Some symptoms of high blood pressure include: headaches, dizziness, and nosebleeds, but these usually occur only when the problem is advanced.
In most cases, hypertension usually develops for years without causing symptoms. Even so, it can damage blood vessels and the heart while it goes undetected. Hence the importance of checking it periodically and taking measures to control it when it is high.
Until now, when it comes to diet, dietitians recommended reducing or eliminating salt , as a preventive measure to control high blood pressure. However, a recent study has shown that the benefits of reducing salt are small, while eliminating it completely or reducing it too much is not good for the body.
The study, which examined data from more than 100,000 patients, indicates that sodium intake of 3 to 6 grams per day is associated with a lower risk of death and stroke, compared with higher or lower intake. Even more: a consumption below 3 grams per day can be harmful.
The study was published in the online edition of the journal Open Heart , and indicates that the sugar added to food is more related to blood pressure and cardiovascular accidents than sodium.
Those really responsible for hypertension seem to be processed foods, which provide not only sodium, but especially highly refined carbohydrates. The latter comprise various types of sugar and simple starches.
According to the study authors, the evidence from science, from population studies and from clinical trials, points directly to sugar in general, and fructose in particular, which has a major role in the development of hypertension . .
Sucrose, or table sugar (composed of glucose and fructose) is a common ingredient in industrially processed foods. And even more common than sucrose is corn syrup, high in fructose, the most widely used sweetener in processed foods, especially soft drinks and fruit drinks.
Medical News Today recently reported that regularly drinking high-sugar soda can lead to premature aging of immune cells and leaves the body vulnerable to chronic disease, an effect similar to smoking.
In tests conducted over eight weeks or longer, higher consumption of added sugar in foods was shown to significantly increase systolic (6.9 mm Hg) and diastolic (5.6 mm Hg) blood pressure.
Excess consumption of fructose increases heart rate, cardiac output, renal sodium retention, and vascular resistance. All of these factors interact to raise blood pressure and increase the oxygen demand of the myocardium (which is the muscle tissue of the heart).
People who consume 25% of calories from added sugar to food or more have a nearly three times higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Even moderate doses of sugar added to food and consumed for short periods of time can harm the body. But consuming sugar (including fructose) in its natural form, such as that found in fruits , does not harm the body, but rather benefits it.
So, since high blood pressure rarely causes symptoms in its early stages, what can you do other than regularly check your blood pressure to see if it’s elevated and eat a healthy diet as mentioned? For starters, take the advice of study co-author James DiNicolantonio, MD, of Saint Luke’s Mid American Heart Institute: “It’s a great move to cut back on added sugar in the first place. You just have to limit the processed foods that contain it.”