Does Sugar Cause High Blood Pressure? Certain Sugary Foods Could Be to Blame
High blood pressure can lead to anything from heart disease to diabetes to dementia. They call it a “silent killer” because it develops without symptoms, giving its victims little to no warning before it damages their bodies from the inside out.
Of the many things you can do to reduce or prevent high blood pressure, changing your diet may be one of the most important. For many people, this means cutting back on foods that have a lot of salt. Most people don’t know their sugar intake may also make a difference.
Here’s why eating too much sugar is bad for you, how what you eat affects blood pressure, and which high-sugar foods and drinks are likely causing the most health problems.
How does diet affect blood pressure?
It may seem like it doesn’t matter which foods you put into your body and which foods you avoid. It’s hard to tell how what you’re eating affects you on the inside.
But a diet high in calories, sodium, saturated fat, and added sugar is not good for you in the long-term. Though there are many potential reasons for this, weight is one of the most significant ones.
People who are overweight or obese are also more likely to develop high blood pressure and related conditions. This is likely because more “mass” means your heart has to work harder to circulate blood, which increases blood pressure.
But this isn’t just about what you do eat — it’s also about what you don’t. The more “junk” you eat, the less likely you are to consume foods that lower blood pressure, such as fruits and vegetables, grains, and foods that contain quality protein.
Which is worse — salt or sugar?
Some studies suggest that excess amounts of refined sugar have a greater impact on high blood pressure risk than sodium. However, this does not necessarily mean one is better or worse than the other if you’re looking at changing your diet to improve your health. Consuming too much of anything can be harmful. You should try limiting both — especially when sugar and salt are involved.
Too much salt is bad for your blood pressure because it tires out your kidneys. These organs are responsible for filtering excess sodium out of your blood and getting rid of it. But the same way your pancreas can’t compensate for too much sugar, your kidneys can’t keep up with excess sodium intake. What they can’t filter out stays in your blood, increasing your blood pressure.
High amounts of sodium are often found in restaurant and fast food meals, frozen and packaged meals, and canned foods (e.g., soups).
Foods to avoid with high blood pressure
The American Heart Association recommends limiting your added sugar intake to 6 teaspoons (24 grams) for women and 9 teaspoons (36 grams) for men. This includes the sugar added to foods you eat as well as the “invisible” sugar in your favorite beverages.
This means you should try to avoid consuming large amounts of foods such as:
- Cakes, cookies, and pies
- Candy and other sweets
- Doughnuts, cupcakes, and other pastries
- Most breakfast cereals
- Packaged granola and trail mixes
- Certain types of yogurt and other dairy products
- Most condiments and sauces that come in bottles/jars.
Drinks can also contain massive amounts of sugar and should be consumed in moderation.
Sugar-sweetened drinks do include soda. But these aren’t the only beverages you have to watch out for. Fruit juices, energy drinks, and store-bought smoothies also contain risky amounts of sugar, and you’re likely to consume more sugar through drinks because they don’t trigger feelings of fullness the way solid food does.