High blood pressure: Added sugars ‘more important than salt’ in raising hypertension

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Hypertension is branded a silent killer because it sneaks up on individuals discreetly. It is diagnosed when the pressure exerted against the arterial walls exceeds a pressure of 140/90mmHg. At this level, people are put at the daily peril of stroke and heart attack. According to previous research, some sugars may be as detrimental as salt for blood pressure.

Salt has historically been demonised as the main offender of high blood pressure, mainly because it induces water retention.

This increases blood pressure until the kidneys are able to flush out the excess salt and water, but some believe the food item has a lasting effect.

Reducing salt intake is therefore widely encouraged, on the grounds that it reduces high blood pressure and the subsequent risk of death.

But according to WebMD, certain types of added sugar may be equally as harmful to blood pressure.

READ MORE: High blood pressure symptoms: 2 head sensations that can be warning signs of hypertension

WebMD explains: “[Added sugar] may be even more important than salt in raising your blood pressure, especially in a processed form like fructose corn syrup.

“People with more added sugars in their diet see a significant rise in both their upper and lower numbers.

“Just one 24-ounce soft drink causes an average 15-point bump in systolic pressure (the top number, or the pressure during a heartbeat) and nine in diastolic (the bottom number, or the pressure between beats.)”

Other health bodies echo this point, stating that the sugar found in processed foods is one of the main drivers of hypertension.

They stress that “added” sugars, such as those found in table sugar or syrup, are more harmful than naturally occurring sugars found in fruit and milk.

According to the health platform VeryWell Health, fructose – a form of simple sugar – increases uric acid levels in the blood.

This in turn inhibits the production of nitric oxide, which the body needs to maintain the flexibility of the blood vessels.

While this can cause an immediate spike in blood pressure, long-term effects of sugar intake include weight gain – another key driver of the condition.

The health body explains: “Research suggests that sugar intake can actually increase salt sensitivity, leading to the enhanced negative effects of sodium on blood pressure.”

In 2017, The authors of a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition reinforced this claim, saying: “Several functions of salt and sugar influence blood pressure and metabolism.

“For example, salt intake is linked to volume expansion, insulin resistance, and hypertension, while sugar intake is associated with enhanced salt sensitivity via urinary sodium retention, insulin resistance and hypertension.”

The study discovered an association between sugar intake and high blood pressure in older women.

How to reduce blood pressureJust as sugar and salt are known to deplete the production of nitric oxide, some foods are known to have the opposite effect.

Leafy green vegetables, which are rich in nitrates, are revered for their benefits in blood pressure management.

In fact, research suggests that eating one to two servings of nitrate-rich vegetables every day can reduce hypertension for up to 24 hours.

Exercise can help too by strengthening the heart, which decreases the force exerted against the arteries and lowers blood pressure.

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