Sugar emerges as cause of heart disease

Leslie Ovalle/Staff Writer

From the beginning of time, salt has been known to ward off evil, but during the late 1970s, salt became the evil when government and healthcare providers began to preach the dangers of salt. This white crystal then became known as the culprit of high blood pressure and therefore heart disease—America’s number one killer of both women and men, according to

High blood pressure or hypertension is a condition in which the force of blood flow against artery walls is found to be high enough to cause health problems. According to Christine Tellez, Florida International University’s registered dietitian for Student Health Services, these probable health problems include cardiovascular disease, which can lead to kidney and eye damage, development of atherosclerosis, heart attacks and strokes.  

Recently, many studies have been proving that a different white crystal may be more to blame for high blood pressure. In Discover Magazine’s September issue, Hillel Cohen, co-executive editor of the “American Journal of Hypertension,” explains that sugar and hypertension are largely linked by weight gain and calorie consumption.

“Even a person that has a healthy weight and is physically active has a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease if they consume a lot of sugar in their diet,” said Tellez, “excess sugar in the diet can lead to weight gain and weight gain can often raise blood pressure.”

Weight gain problems, such as being overweight, increase a person’s blood volume so that tissues can keep their needed oxygen and nutrient levels. This increase in blood volume puts pressure on artery walls, which is where the damage is caused.

Excess sugar, according to Tellez, also contributes to hypertension in the formation of advanced glycation endproducts or AGEs which make arteries stiffer and in turn more difficult for blood to travel through them.

In regards to sugar, Tellez recommends choosing lean non-refined carbohydrates and limiting added sugar intake to six teaspoons per day for women and ten teaspoons per day for men.

One of the main reasons why sugar is taking salt’s place as the culprit of hypertension is because studies have found that people react to sodium in different ways—not everyone is “salt sensitive.”

“Many people with hypertension are what is considered ‘salt sensitive,’ meaning that high salt intake raises their blood pressure more than in the average person,” said Tellez, “people that are salt sensitive tend to be men, older adults and African-Americans.”

Still, salt’s effect on high blood pressure has yet to be discounted. Tellez, along with the USDA, recommend keeping sodium intake under 2300 mg per day, which equals a teaspoon.

Dietitians, including Tellez, remind us that a diet based on whole foods, including: whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, non-starchy vegetables and fruits, is naturally low in sugar and salt and therefore will ward off the real evil—heart disease.

SDA Health is published  every Wednesday.


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