For many years, people claimed a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet was the best way to stay healthy. Then came the low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet and later, the high-protein diet. These diets all purported to solve the obesity epidemic, lower high blood pressure, and decrease the risk of heart disease. But they didn’t help.
Some of these diets had some scientific validity but in the last 20 years we have learned a lot why people get sick and what is responsible. High blood pressure is a very good example of this.
As you age, your blood pressure can steadily increase because your arteries lack the ability to be flexible as they lose their elasticity due to pathological changes which occur inside the artery. This can subsequently cause the artery to harden and become more rigid. When your arteries are less flexible, your blood pressure will increase.
Now, the experts will tell you that hypertension is related to the aging process and happens regardless of what you do.
I have NEVER believed this to be the case! The artery disease that is associated with hypertension, known as atherosclerosis, is NOT a natural adaptation to aging, it’s a disease, period! In my opinion, every disease has a cause or a series of causes.
The most important cause of high blood pressure, in my opinion, is not attributed to sodium, a high-fat diet, or stress. Although these factors can be important as can race, level of physical activity and genetics, insulin resistance is the most important reason why people have high blood pressure.
Insulin resistance is caused from the continued over-consumption of simple carbohydrates found in white flour, rice, pasta, sugar, soda, candy, desserts, fruit drinks, and breakfast cereals. These foods raise blood sugar rapidly causing large amounts of insulin secretion from the pancreas in response to regulate the blood sugar. Chronically high levels of insulin cause a condition known as insulin resistance.
These high levels of insulin cause the insulin receptor on the cell to become insensitive to it so it no longer recognizes it. In response, your body secretes more insulin to compensate after eating these types of foods. Soon you will become carbohydrate intolerant and suffer from hyperinsulinemia.
When this happens, your blood pressure will increase steadily as will your level of body fat, especially inside your abdomen. Despite the fact that your blood sugar may remain within normal limits, the levels of inflammation and degree of damage inside your arteries can be quite advanced.
However, this process can begin slowly and steadily progress over 10-15 years causing chronically high blood pressure and other health issues. It is important to consider that high blood pressure is often the first symptom and it can occur early in this process. If you are carbohydrate intolerant, consuming a meal consisting of simple carbohydrates can significantly increase your blood pressure within minutes.
You or your health care provider may never attribute your high blood pressure to your diet and how your body has reacted to it. This is especially the case if you are older, do not smoke, are inactive and have no other major health issues other than some weight gain.
Do not avoid carbohydrates completely—just eat the right types of carbohydrates like vegetables, legumes, fruits, and whole grains; and exercise for at least 40 minutes every day.
Hänninen, M.R., et al., “Metabolic risk factors and masked hypertension in the general population: the Finn-Home study,” J Hum Hypertens. January 2, 2014.