Do you have high blood pressure? Then it’s good to know that the keto lifestyle lowers blood pressure in most people. Read on to find out why that is and what this can mean if you take blood pressure medication.
What is high blood pressure?
High blood pressure is almost always caused by insulin resistance: an excess of carbohydrates in your diet causes your body to produce more insulin. The more insulin you have in your body, the more salt and fluid your body will retain. This fluid has to go somewhere and ends up in your blood vessels. This excess fluid in the vessels creates ‘overpressure’. This is what we call high blood pressure. As long as you keep eating a lot of carbohydrates, or even increase your carbohydrate intake, the high blood pressure will remain or even increase.
The danger of high blood pressure
High blood pressure plays a major role in the development of cardiovascular diseases. Too high a pressure in the vessels will weaken the vessel walls. Weaker vessel walls increase the risk of vessel wall inflammation. This damage can still occur if you take medications for high blood pressure. The risk of heart failure with high blood pressure is 3 times higher and the risk of a stroke is 4 times higher.
What does your doctor do if high blood pressure is diagnosed?
In most cases your doctor will prescribe a beta-blocker. This is a medication that will make your heart work less hard: the heart will pump less blood around which will lower your blood pressure. Your doctor can also prescribe a diuretic. Diuretics remove the excess fluid. They do this by stimulating the production of urine in the kidneys. As a result you will urinate more and your blood pressure will drop.
How can you lower blood pressure without medication?
Beta blockers and diuretics may lower the blood pressure, but they don’t remove the actual cause: insulin resistance. A diet low in carbohydrates, such as the keto lifestyle, can however do just that: if you eat less carbohydrates you also produce less insulin. Less insulin in the body means less salt and fluid retention, so your blood pressure will drop almost immediately.
If you are already taking beta-blockers when you start a keto lifestyle you have a good chance that you can stop taking them shortly after: the diet lowers your blood pressure quite quickly, sometimes within a few days. Measuring your blood pressure at home is very convenient during that time: that way you know for sure what’s going on. Also listen closely to what your body is telling you: do you feel tired, dizzy, unwell or weak? Make sure to contact your doctor to discuss whether stopping the beta-blockers is a possibility. Always mention that you follow a keto lifestyle.
Do you also take diuretics? There is a good chance that you can stop taking those as well. The keto diet also has a diuretic effect which strengthens the effect of the diuretics you are taking. Not only does this increase the risk of dehydration, but you can also lose too many electrolytes. Contact your doctor to discuss whether stopping the diuretics is a possibility. And again: always mention that you follow a keto lifestyle.
When it is not advised to stop taking the medications
Sometimes your doctor prefers for you to continue your medication. In that case you need to stay alert for symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, nausea and muscle weakness. If in doubt, contact your doctor again.
But what about salt?
The neighbour, your mother and sometimes the doctor himself: they will often advise you to avoid salt if you have high blood pressure. This stubborn myth unfortunately still persists, especially with the older generation. Salt does not raise your blood pressure: too many carbohydrates leading to insulin resistance is the culprit. Limiting your salt intake is not only unnecessary, it can in fact have adverse effects while on keto: because of the drastic reduction in carbohydrates, you lose fluids and salt and they always need to be replenished. Not doing so may lead you to feel dizzy or weak.
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