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High Blood Pressure: A Culprit Bigger than Salt.

A conversation with Dr. R.

Joshua: If someone wanted to lower blood pressure, other than by taking medications, where would you have them start?

DR. R: Well there are all sorts of great topics, but today let's talk about how a funky diet can raise your blood pressure.


JOSHUA: So, my guess is that what you’re going to say is that, I better eat less salt because too much salt increases high blood pressure.


DR. R: Well, of course, I have said that. Yeah, 50% percent of people with high blood pressure have got a salt issue going. They're eating too much and or they are sensitive to salt in general. They've got to reduce their salt, but that's not the one I want to refer to today because there's a much bigger cause related to diet and it’s sweets: sugar, simple carbohydrates. Let me explain to you how this works. A simple carbohydrate like sugar absorbs into your bloodstream out of the stomach very quickly and you get a spike of glucose in your blood. And your body thinks that you ate a huge meal because for millions of years...


JOSHUA: ...it would never see that much sugar unless I eat a big meal.


DR. R: That's right. Food was far more complex until about a 100 years ago and it didn’t contain a lot of sugar. So, your thinks you had a huge meal, it protects against a glucose spike because glucose burns very hot. And it needs to get into the cells quickly. It needs to be converted to fat to be stored or processed right away because it burns too hot. The body has a special hormone to get glucose out of the blood and into the cells and that's called insulin. So, your body puts out insulin as if you had a huge meal but you didn't and now there's extra insulin at the end of its work. You get hypoglycemia! Some people can even feel that. They get a little tired or a little faint when they have eaten too much sugar.
Now…the body does not tolerate hypoglycemia: too little sugar. But it's got an internal restorative mechanism called hormones that can raise the blood glucose again. Same ones that do it for fight-or-flight: adrenaline, and cortisol. There's a lot of people where the adrenaline's going to raise that blood pressure.


JOSHUA: So I think I understand this. I think I get why sugar raises my blood pressure. It's something like this: I drink a soda. My body thinks I must have eaten a large meal for that much sugar to be hitting my system. It pumps a bunch of insulin into my bloodstream to deal with that much sugar. It overshoots the mark because it thought I ate a giant meal. Now I have too little sugar in my blood stream. Well, it can't deal with that, so it pumps in adrenaline and cortisol to make up for that…and that raises my blood pressure.


DR. R: You got it.


JOSHUA: So sugar leads to adrenaline and adrenaline leads to high blood pressure.


DR. R: Exactly. This is a description the short run of things. Do this over a long period of time, everything gets worse. You get something called insulin resistance, ultimately diabetes. Moral of the story, if you have high blood pressure, you've got to examine your simple carbohydrate intake and reduce it. Well, what are simple carbohydrates: sugar and sweets. If it's sweet, it's simple. Yet, there's some hidden stuff. For example, almost all processed foods have a very high sugar and salt content. So, if it's in a bottle, box or can, look out! There’s more too: pasta, bread, grains, certainly pastries are are too simple as well. So, there's a piece of work to do here!


JOSHUA: Okay, great.  Thank you.

 

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