Is Keto Good for High Blood Pressure? What Science Says
The low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet continues to attract the attention of people due to its weight loss effects.
However, the low-carb diet is also renowned for its health-promoting benefits, and it can be used as a complementary approach to the management of several chronic health conditions, including heart disease.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure (BP), is a cardiovascular condition that affects millions of people. Left untreated, it can result in a heart attack or stroke. Therefore, it is crucial to learn how to control it.
Elevated pressure in the blood vessels is frequently caused by poor lifestyle choices, such as a diet high in salt or a lack of physical activity. Consequently, extensive research continues to be done on dietary choices and the effect they have on your blood pressure.
In this article, we explore the associations between keto and high blood pressure and find out if you can use keto for high blood pressure management.
Understanding High Blood Pressure and Its Impact
The World Health Organization estimates that 1.28 billion adults over the age of 30 are living with elevated blood pressure. Up to 46% don’t know they are in danger of suffering from the consequences of uncontrolled hypertension.
What is hypertension?
When your heart beats, it forces blood through your arteries, placing pressure on the blood vessels. The pressure is what keeps your blood flowing to deliver essential nutrients and oxygen to the cells and tissues throughout the body and take waste products away to be expelled from the body.
Your blood pressure reading is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and is made up of the following 2 numbers:
- Systolic blood pressure is the higher number and refers to the pressure in the blood vessels when your heart contracts.
- Diastolic blood pressure is the lower number and represents the pressure in the blood vessels when your heart relaxes between beats.
Normal BP is less than 120mmHg over 80mmHg (120/80mmHg), and your BP is considered elevated if your systolic blood pressure falls between 120–139mmHg and your diastolic blood pressure between 80–89mmHg.
If your average blood pressure is higher than 140/90mmHg, you will be diagnosed with high blood pressure.
Most people don’t know their BP is dangerously high because elevated blood pressure usually doesn’t cause any noticeable signs or symptoms. However, you may notice some of the following symptoms if your BP is high:
- Blurred vision
- Nose bleeds
- Feeling short of breath
- Feeling dizzy
- Chest pain or discomfort
Impact of high blood pressure on health
It is critical to lower your BP if it is elevated through a combination of lifestyle changes and appropriate blood pressure medication. Left untreated, persistently raised BP may have the following negative effects on your health:
- Loss of vision
- Heart attack
- Kidney failure
- Heart failure
- Sexual dysfunction
- Narrowed arteries
Obesity and Other Causes of High Blood Pressure
The causes of hypertension include genetic factors, such as your race or having a family history of the condition. Your age also has a significant role to play with most older adults developing elevated blood pressure.
Certain medical conditions are known to impact your BP negatively. They include chronic kidney disease, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and an underactive thyroid.
However, similar to other factors contributing to heart disease, many cases of raised blood pressure are the result of lifestyle risk factors such as smoking cigarettes, alcoholism, chronic stress, a lack of exercise, and a diet high in salt or low in fiber.
Additionally, being overweight or obese is an important contributing factor to the development of essential hypertension, also known as primary hypertension, which is hypertension that has no underlying medical cause.
Carrying too much weight interrupts hormone balance, causes chronic inflammation, and has a negative impact on kidney function. In turn, these health issues contribute to high blood pressure. Hence, weight loss can be an effective means of returning BP to normal.
Keto Diet and Blood Pressure
Several diets are promoted for weight loss and the prevention and management of heart disease and hypertension. They include the DASH diet, Ornish diet, Zone diet, and a low-fat diet. Recently, studies have suggested that in people who do keto, blood pressure drops.
What is the keto diet?
The ketogenic diet is a low carbohydrate diet with a high fat content. A healthy keto diet avoids all processed foods that may have a high salt content and includes plenty of fresh non-starchy vegetables and healthy fats.
When you follow a low-carb, high-fat diet, your blood sugar and insulin levels are significantly reduced, and your body is forced to adapt to burning fat in the form of ketones for energy. This metabolic state is referred to as ketosis.
When you are in ketosis, you burn fat from your diet as well as body fat more efficiently. As a result, you lose weight and gain health.
At Keto Cycle, we have diet plans available for anyone wanting to start keto. Whether you are a man or a woman, young or old, vegetarian, or have a family to care for, we have a plan to get you started on your keto journey.
Benefits of keto for high blood pressure
A research study that examined the effect of a very-low-calorie ketogenic diet on 137 obese women with high blood pressure found that all of them experienced significant weight loss and improvement in body composition.
They also noted that both systolic and diastolic pressure were reduced. Moreover, the study results suggested that one of the factors that may result in lower BP is a reduction in chronic inflammation as a result of the low-carbohydrate diet.
Another study that used a Mediterranean keto diet that incorporated olive oil as the primary source of dietary fat, fish as the main source of protein, and lots of green leafy vegetables, concluded that ketosis was effective for losing weight, reducing the risk of heart disease, improving blood sugar and insulin levels, and reducing blood pressure.
In a review paper that examined keto and high blood pressure, it was found that the best diet for controlling BP is one that is effective in reducing body weight and fat mass as well as reducing cardiovascular risk factors.
Keto and blood pressure considerations
When you start keto, blood pressure fluctuations may occur. If you have high BP, a drop in blood pressure is exactly what you want to happen.
However, if your hypertension is controlled with blood pressure medication, it may drop too low when you start following the keto diet. Therefore, you should consult with your doctor before you begin the diet, and your progress must be closely monitored.
Keto flu is a common side effect of your body transitioning into a state of ketosis. Drinking fluids with extra electrolytes is usually recommended to help reduce the symptoms. However, due to the high salt content of such drinks, they may cause a rise in BP. Therefore, they should be avoided if you have elevated blood pressure.
Can Keto Cause High Blood Pressure?
Most studies have shown that the ketogenic diet has a beneficial effect on high blood pressure. However, some people find that their blood pressure rises when they start following the diet.
One of the reasons this may happen is the strict restriction of carbohydrates may trigger your body’s stress response, resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones, which cause your blood pressure to rise.
Another reason your blood pressure might rise on the keto diet is that you are genetically predisposed to a high sodium intake resulting in hypertension. Limit your salt intake to prevent this from happening.
6 Tips for Healthy Blood Pressure on Keto
- Consult with your doctor or a registered dietitian before you begin the keto diet, especially if you are taking blood pressure medication.
- Have your blood pressure checked regularly so that your doctor can adjust your blood pressure medication if necessary.
- Take the Keto Cycle quiz to get a personalized keto diet plan that takes your requirements into consideration.
- Include plenty of low-carb vegetables in every meal to ensure an adequate intake of dietary fiber and important nutrients that help control blood pressure.
- Limit your intake of salt and salty foods.
- Regular exercise helps to control blood pressure. Include some physical activity in your daily routine.
- Include healthy fats such as olive oil, fatty fish, nuts, and seeds in your diet to help reduce cholesterol levels and prevent heart disease.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I do keto if I have high blood pressure?
Yes, you can do keto if your blood pressure is high. The diet helps to reduce cardiovascular risk factors such as raised insulin levels, elevated LDL-cholesterol levels, and high blood pressure.
Can keto cause blood pressure to rise?
Keto and high blood pressure are not usually linked. However, ketosis may trigger your stress response which results in a rise in blood pressure.
Will my blood pressure go down on keto?
Yes. Most studies reveal that the ketogenic diet is effective in lowering blood pressure.
Does cutting out carbs help blood pressure?
Yes, a low-carb diet and keeping your net carbs intake under 50g per day makes it possible to achieve and maintain ketosis, which helps to reduce blood pressure.
What is the best diet to lower blood pressure?
A diet that is often recommended for lowering blood pressure is the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. However, one study that compared the DASH diet with the keto diet found that the ketogenic diet was more effective at lowering blood pressure, improving blood sugar control, and weight reduction.