For decades now there’s been an all-out war on salt.
The message has been hammered home in no uncertain terms: Salt will give you high blood pressure!
But is salt really a villain worthy of a black hat and mask?
Or is the truth far more complicated? And could another white crystalline substance be the real killer?
Here’s the truth.
If you’re an average healthy American, reducing your salt by 1,500 mg will typically result in a 2 point reduction in your blood pressure (BP) readings.
And if you have high blood pressure the same cut in sodium could lower your top—systolic—numbers around 5 mm Hg and your bottom—diastolic—number 2.5.
Could that make a difference if you’re borderline hypertensive?
Sure, it could. But the fact is new research suggests there’s something Americans are scarfing down in bulk that can have a far more dramatic impact on our blood pressure.
Study links sugar to high blood pressure
That substance, of course, is sugar.
And boy do we like our sugar here in the USA. Put just six of us in a room and at least one of us will be getting more than 25 percent of our calories from the sweet stuff.
On average we’re all sucking up 100+ pounds of sugar a year!
And, as you can imagine it’s destroying our health. Metabolic syndrome, diabetes and hypertension diagnoses have shot right through the roof.
Chow down on sugary food and you can expect your BP to skyrocket by 6.9 mm Hg on top and 5.6 mm on the bottom, according to research published in the journal Open Heart.
Even worse eating more sugar for over two months can send those same numbers jumping to 7.6/6.1 mm Hg.
But as disturbing as those findings are, the researchers had more to report.
If you’re a soda drinker just a 24-ounce soft drink can raise your heart rate 9 beats a minute and increase your blood pressure 15 points up top and 9 on the bottom.
Those eating 25 percent more calories from sugar—far easier than you might imagine—have a shocking 300 percent increase in death rate from heart disease.
And eating a diet high in sugar for just two short weeks doesn’t send just your blood pressure skyrocketing but pulse rate, triglycerides and fasting insulin rates right along with them.
Listen, no one needs to tell you a high sugar diet is bad news. We already knew it raises your risk for everything from memory loss to cancer. But now we need to add high blood pressure to that list.
You may need to watch your salt too!
So now we know that sugar can be far worse for your blood pressure than salt. But that doesn’t mean everyone can safely scarf down lots of the stuff.
Believe it or not our genetics determine how much salt we can safely eat. Around one third of us are highly salt sensitive. If you fall into this group it’s important to keep a close eye on how much sodium you’re getting.
One third of us have a mild reaction to salt, meaning we should still keep an eye on our sodium intake, but our body isn’t extremely reactive to it. And then there’s the last third of us who have no reaction to salt at all and likely shouldn’t waste too much time thinking about it.
If you have high blood pressure and are wondering which third of folks you fall into there’s genetic testing available that can help you understand your own response to salt.
But there are two other groups of folks who DO need to be aware of their sodium intake, and that’s anyone who has blood sugar concerns or congestive heart failure.
If you’re health and your blood pressure is normal, meaning below 120/80, then salt likely will not have much if any effect on your health.
However, we ALL should be slashing our sugar intake. Get started today by cutting down on processed foods and eating more healthy protein, fats and fiber rich veggies, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds.
Dr. Masley has received the award of Fellow from three prestigious organizations: the American Heart Association, the American College of Nutrition, and the American Academy of Family Physicians. He is also a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of South Florida, and he teaches programs at Eckerd College and the University of Tampa. In 2010, he received the physician Health Care Hero award by the Tampa Bay Business Journal, plus he has received several awards for his lifestyle related research. Dr. Masley sees patients from across North America at the Masley Optimal Health Center in St Petersburg, FL.
Dr. Masley has published several health books, including Smart Fat, The 30-Day Heart Tune-Up, and Ten Years Younger, and numerous scientific articles. His work has been featured on the Discovery Channel, the Today Show, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), plus over 250 media interviews. He also completed a chef internship at the Four Seasons Restaurant in Seattle, WA, and he has performed cooking demonstrations at Canyon Ranch, the Pritikin Longevity Center, and for multiple television appearances.
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