- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
How I Lowered My Blood Pressure By Cutting Back On Sugar
Understanding Blood Pressure
In order to understand high blood pressure and how it affects you, you should first learn what blood pressure is. Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of arteries. It is recorded as two numbers—the systolic pressure (as the heart beats) over the diastolic pressure (as the heart relaxes between beats). The measurement is written one above or before the other, with the systolic number on top and the diastolic number on the bottom. For example, a blood pressure measurement of 120/80 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) is expressed verbally as "120 over 80."
Normal Blood Pressure is anything 120 over 80 or less. What is considered High Blood Pressure varies some amoung experts but most agree that anything 140 over 90 is considered high.
Blood pressure is measured by a trained medical person by using a blood pressure cuff and a stethoscope, or by a machine that can be purchased over the counter. There are many over the counter blood pressure machines now that allow people to take their own blood pressure at home.
What is High Blood Pressure?
High Blood Pressure, also known as HBP or Hypertension, can be a very serious condition. High Blood Pressure is often referred to as the silent kiler because there are not always any symptoms. People can have high blood pressure and not be aware of it. If they do not go to the doctor regularly or have their blood pressure checked they may not know they have it.
Letting high blood pressure go untreated can be dangerous. High blood pressure can lead to coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, and many other health problems.
What Causes High Blood Pressure?
Many people mistakenly think that those with hypertension are tense, nervous or hyperactive, but hypertension has nothing to do with personality traits. The truth is, you can be a calm, relaxed person and still have HBP.
The exact causes of high blood pressure are not known, but there are several factors and conditions that may play a role in HBP. Some are:
- Obesity, or being overweight
- High salt diet
- High alcohol consumption (more than 1-2 drinks per day)
- Lack of physical activity
- Age (95% of people over 65 have HBP)
- Family history of high blood pressure
- Chronic kidney disease
- Adrenal and thyroid disorders
I was diagnosed with High Blood Pressure a couple years ago. My blood pressure was consistantly running just a little high so my doctor put me on a very low dose of a water pill. It worked like a charm. I don't have any side effects from the medication, other than having to use the rest room a couple times in the morning, since I take it first thing in the morning. But I was only in my early forties so I really didn't want to be on medication.
I am not obese but I could stand to lose a little weight. I was about 30 pounds over my ideal weight (in my opinion). Probably more like 40 pounds in the eyes of a doctor. But my grandmother had seriously high blood pressure most of her life. It ended up causing serious heart disease which killed her in her 70's. So in my case it may very well be family history.
In any case, I took the medicine, and began to try to alter my diet. I had always heard that salt played a big part in blood pressure so I began to try to limit my salt intake. Anyone who has tried that in todays world of fast and convenient food knows how difficult that can be. One fast food meal in a day will blow your daily sodium intake thru the roof.
But I did the best I could and tried to keep my sodium to a low. It really didn't seem to make much of a difference. If I didn't take the pills, my blood pressure went up.
One day my mother said to me "I saw a story about blood pressure and sugar. It said that sugar affected blood pressure more that salt." At the time she told me I really didn't pay much attention. But about a year later another health issue arose.
I was noticing several little health issues actually. I was having difficulty sleeping, muscle spasms in my legs, self diagnosed restless leg syndrom, and a few other minor things. One day I went for a massage and on the way I was starving so I ate several life savor mint-o-green mints. While I was getting the massage I was having uncontrollable muscle spasms in my legs. It was alarming to me.
It suddenly occurred to me that maybe it was the sugar in the mints. So when I left I looked at the packaging on the mints. There is 3 grams of sugar in each mint and I was consuming about 20+ mints per day. That is 60 grams of sugar in the mints alone. Now add in my presweetened cereal and soda and I'm topping well over 100 grams of sugar per day.
So right at that moment, (not even considering my blood pressure) I decided to cut way back on the sugar. Which I did. I learned that on average you should not consume more than 40 grams of sugar per day. And I did everything I could to keep under that.
It wasn't easy at first but I did manage to cut way back. And I immediately noticed I slept better at night, my legs stopped having spasms and the symptoms of restless leg syndrom went away completely. I couldn't believe how good I felt.
Cutting back on sugar brought benefits other than sleeping better and feeling better. I started dropping pounds without even trying. I lost 20 pounds in one year. I was thrilled about that. But then I also noticed that I didn't get the swelling around my ankles anymore and everytime they took my blood pressure it was below 120 over 80. It hadn't been below 120 over 80 since before I had been diagnosed with HBP.
On one of my regular six month checks I mentioned to the doctor about going off the blood pressure medicine. He wasn't on board yet. He said that since I was on the lowest dose and it was working I should stay on. But the biggest reason that I wanted to get off the medicine was so that I could eat grapefruit again. Grapefruit is one of my favorite breakfast foods and I hadn't eaten it in years.
Grapefruit interferes with Blood Pressure Medication so you are not supposed to eat grapefruit if you take blood pressure medication. Since my blood pressure has been so much better with the 20 pound weight loss my doctor told me that I could eat grapefruit once a week and skip the medicine. We agreed that I would keep trying to lose more weight and maybe at the next visit we will consider stopping the medication.
Ways To Cut Your Sugar Intake
At first it may seem impossible to cut your sugar intake, but you just have to take a look at what you eat and drink in a day. Most people are completely unaware of how much sugar is in the foods and drinks that they consume. Just becoming aware is a great start.
The first thing that I had to do was to determine how much sugar they recommend you have in one day. The recommended amount is 40g. Then I started looking at the things that I ate or drank on a regular basis to see how much sugar was in them.
The first thing I gave up was the little mints. They weren't worth the 3g of sugar each one contained.
The next biggest sugar intake for me was soda. I like soda and I don't like diet. I would rather quit soda than drink diet. But what I realized is that I can cut back on the soda without giving it up. For example, if I go to a restaurant, I don't order a soda before the meal. I start with a water. I wait until my food comes and then order my soda. Otherwise I sit there bored waiting for my meal and I drink soda that I don't need. I can still enjoy the soda with my meal but I don't consume nearly as much.
I normally don't drink soda at home on a regular basis but I do like to enjoy it with certain things like pizza or subs. So if we do take out and I decide to treat myself to a soda, then when I am done with the meal I dump out any of the soda left. Once I'm done eating I don't need to continue drinking the soda. It's really a mindset. People get used to drinking the soda until it's gone, but if you are drinking a 20 ounce bottle that can be a problem.
If you look at the soda bottle it will tell you how many grams of sugar are in the soda. But make sure you also check out the serving size. That's where they get you. Many of the labels for the 20 ounce sodas have 2.5 servings per container so the grams of sugar per serving are not the grams of sugar if you drink the whole bottle.
Most products are labeled with the grams of sugar. Make sure you check serving size too. Just being aware of how much sugar is in each item will help you make better choices about what you eat and drink.
Analyze your diet
Take a look at what you eat and drink on average per day. See how much sugar you are currently consuming. If you are like most people, it is more than 40 grams. Look over what you are eating and drinking and see where you think you can cut some sugar.
Replace sugary food and drinks with non sugary replacements. If you can't cut out sugar completely, at least cut back. For example, Gatorade drinks have about half of the sugar of soda. It's better to get rid of sugary drinks but if you can't, find ones that have less sugar.
Give yourself treats now and then. Don't give up all sweets for ever. If ice cream is your favorite and you eat it every night, try to go every other night, or twice a week. You have to go by your own personality. Some people are all or nothing, and others do better with gradual change. If you want it to work, you have to make sure it will work for you.
There is no guarantee that cutting back on sugar will lower your blood pressure, but it's worth a try. Overall sugar is not healthy for you and cutting back may help you in other areas of your health as well. Since there is no way to tell what is causing the high blood pressure, losing weight, exercising, and eating healthy may or may not effect it. But in the long run, all of those things will help you live a healthier life.