Do you want to go low-carb with high blood pressure? Fun Fact: About one-quarter of the world’s population has high blood pressure. It’s a serious condition that has the potential to trigger events like strokes and heart attacks. In recent years low-carb diet programs like the Ketogenic Diet have been trending. This requires you to go low-carb so the body gets energy from stored fat and “ketone” molecules. Since this changes your body’s energy source it’s critical to know about Atkins/Keto and high blood pressure. This will determine whether or not it’s a safe diet for you, and if there are tweaks you should make in order to avoid blood pressure spikes.
Hypertension (high blood pressure) patients usually take a certain approach when losing weight. They include grains, low-fat dairy, and no saturated fat. This approach differs from keto, which ditches grains, and encourages full-fat dairy and saturated fat. In fact, Atkins actually allows unlimited protein and fat. So it’s important to know if you should make tweaks to the standard Keto diet. In fact, there are versions known as modified Keto that can include slightly higher carbs for athletes and protein spikes for bodybuilders. For example, hypertension patients should decrease carbs to reduce blood pressure.
What Is the Keto Diet?
The Keto is one of the trending low-carb diets in the diet world. Fun Fact: Google reported Keto jumped from #6 (2017) to #1 (2018) in terms of searches. The ketogenic diet was developed in the early 1920s by the world-famous Mayo Clinic. While the low-carb diet was originally used to treat epilepsy and diabetes, it’s mostly used today for weight loss.
Keto is one of the low-carbohydrate diets that also include Atkins and South Beach. This diet uses a “macro split” that divides total calories into 70% fat, 20% protein, and 10% carbs. There are some “modified keto” programs but if the fat decreases too much or the carbs spike it’s not really Keto.
The main goal of this diet is to hack the body’s normal system of getting energy from carbs. Carbs are dropped as low as 5%. This causes the body to get energy from two main sources. They include stored fat and liver-produced “ketone” molecules.
There’s some debate about how long people should go on Keto. Even many of its supporters argue that it’s best to only stay on the program for one or two months. This is due to the fact that there are concerns about making fat about three-quarters of all calories.
Many nutritionists also point out that there are no “good” or “bad” macronutrients. For example, the Mediterranean Diet isn’t low-carb but focuses on carbs like whole grains, fruits, and veggies. That said, in terms of weight loss, there’s no doubt that that going low-carb for a while can help with weight loss. You’re literally turning the body into a fat-burning machine.
This process because a person can’t get carbs from carbohydrates. It’s worth noting that the weight loss process is basically the same. While you’re not cutting calories per se, burning fat will help to create a “caloric deficit.”
Keto and High Blood Pressure
If you have high blood pressure the big question is how (and if) to do keto. Keto is a low-carb, high fat (LCHF) diet that causes the body to get energy from stored fat rather than glucose (blood sugar). It might seem dangerous to pair a high-fat diet with high blood pressure.
A caveat to consider is that these are “good” fats. They include options like:
- Fatty fish
- Full-fat dairy
- Coconut milk/oil
- Olives/Olive oil
In recent years high-fat cooking oils have been making a comeback. Heath experts now report that options like cooking oils from pork, beef, coconuts, and olives are actually healthier options than vegetable oils. For example, omega-3s are now considered healthier than omega-6s.
It’s also worth noting that the “low-carb” part of the diet doesn’t mean you can’t eat fruits and veggies. It’s true that meat, eggs, and dairy are generally lower-carb. However, you can still pick among several low-carb plant-based foods including:
- Leafy greens (spinach, kale, collars)
- Non-root vegetables
- Berries (strawberries, blackberries, raspberries)
Whether you’re on the keto diet or other diet programs it’s important to make healthy choices. For example, many pre-packaged foods like diet sodas are often considered “Keto-friendly.” It’s important to still pick whole foods and less-processed foods when making meal plans.
This is especially true if you have high blood pressure. For example, fatty fish, nuts/seeds, and avocado are high-fat foods that are also heart-friendly. It’s all about boosting your ratio of good/bad fats.
There are few tweaks to make to modify keto for high BP. For example, make sure to consume enough fiber to help lower bad/LDL cholesterol.
Since grains aren’t Keto-friendly you should consider options like fruit/vegetable skins. In fact, studies show that a high-fiber diet can help to lower the risk of heart disease risk. This is a big plus for people with high blood pressure.
Possible Issues for High-BP Dieters
Here are some possible issues people with high blood pressure might have while on Keto:
When starting out on Keto or Atkins is often recommended that dieters boost their salt/fluids somewhat. This is often done during the first two weeks and in the form of bouillon cubes. This can help with side-effects like headaches when beginning a low-carb diet.
Salt can cause blood pressure spikes. So you should only consider bouillon and other sodium sources if you’re maintaining blood pressure well. The reason is it might boost blood pressure. If you’re taking blood pressure meds and you still have high blood pressure you should absolutely, positively not take sources of extra salt like bouillon.
A “Ketotarian” is a term for people with hypertension who are on the Keto diet. It’s been designed by Dr. Will Cole and deals with the Keto diet’s green light for stuff like diet sodas, bacon, and pork rinds. These foods are basically a no-go for people with higher-than-normal blood pressure.
Ketotarians don’t ditch meat but it’s a mostly plant-based version of the low-carb diet. It also avoids additives like artificial sweeteners that are considered Keto-friendly. These options are also highly-processed like low-carb foods including bacon.
Blood Pressure Medications
If you’re already taking prescription meds for high blood pressure, then Keto could actually cause low blood pressure. It’s possible for Keto to lower blood pressure in days. In other cases, it could take months or one full year.
Watch out for low-BP symptoms. They include feeling tired, weak, or dizzy. If that happens, you should get your blood pressure checked. If it’s below 128/80 or so you should contact your physician to find out if you should make changes to your meds. In some cases, you’ll need to find a low-carb doctor to deal with keto and high blood pressure.