In the midst of a global pandemic, a lot of us are taking precautions at home, not going out to party and we are finding solace in food to feel festive. It’s not just weight gain or high blood sugar that you need to be wary of. The excessively rich festive diet could be spiking up your blood pressure too.
Festive Pitfall 1: Too Many Sweets All Day
Be careful before you eat another laddoo today… as according to research high levels of fructose (sugar) may predispose us to hypertension.
High blood pressure and insulin resistance tend to go hand-in-hand; as our insulin level elevates, so does the blood pressure. So it is worth keeping the sugar intake in check to nip high BP in the bud.
This happens because insulin stores magnesium, and if the insulin receptors are blunted and the cells grow resistant to insulin, we can't store magnesium, and it passes out of the body through urination. Magnesium is needed to keep our BP in check.
Another reason is that excess fructose intake (via sweetened beverages and other sweet foods) could lead to high uric acid levels (hyperuricemia) in the body. This leads to depletion of endothelial nitric oxide, which is an important molecule to prevent hypertension. Double whammy there!
Festive Pitfall 2: Too Many Processed Foods
A diet loaded with high-carbohydrates and processed foods could also spike up our blood pressure. Firstly, because they are high in fructose, which may predispose us to fast-onset, salt-sensitive hypertension. But the other reason is excess phosphate, which is added as a preservative, flavour enhancer and colour stabiliser to many processed foods. Phosphate is naturally found in meat and milk and is important for building strong bones and for maintaining and repairing the body. However, phosphate added to a large number of packaged foods causes trouble as it over-activates nerves that raise blood pressure, land may lead to high blood pressure.
Festive Pitfall 3: Too Many Trans Fats
Eating too much of junk food, margarines and fried foods is a bad idea… because they are all loaded with trans fats, and consumption of trans fats leads to increased LDL ( bad cholesterol), decreased HDL (good cholesterol) and increased triglycerides.
All these factors lead to fat deposit and hardening of arteries, which may lead to hypertension. So be careful.
Festive Pitfall 4: Too Many Calories
Do you invariably gain weight during this time? If the answer is yes, know that it is important to keep a check on your weight as people with a high BMI (normal BMI is 20-25, overweight is 25-29.9 and obese is greater than 30) are more prone to get early onset of high BP as compared to those near their optimum weight. Thats because excess weight is directly related to elevated systolic blood pressure (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) elevation. According to research in people with high BMI the risk of hypertension increases 3.5 times as compared to with those with high aerobic capacity and normal BMI.
Festive Pitfall 5: Messing up Your Gut
Have you been eating meal after meal of ‘bad for your gut’ foods? Please know that not taking care of our gut microbes is an important causative factor for hypertension. So switch ASAP to consciously plating more fermented foods, probiotics, kimchi, miso soup, buttermilk, idli, dosa, appam, dhokla, uttapam, kanji - everyday. This will help you counter the otherwise terrible festive diet that you are eating.
Festive Pitfall 6: Not Stepping Out in the Sun
Where’s the time you say to spend some lazy moments in the sun? Well failure to do so, could be spiking up your BP. We all know that vitamin D is important to help maintain good bone health and its deficiency can fuel cancer, depression, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and cardiovascular disease. Research now has connected its deficiency to hypertension too. So step out in the sun a bit more, in between these festivities, and also get your Vitamin D checked to know your status.
(Kavita is a nutritionist, weight management consultant and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico), Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You (Rupa) and Fix it with foods.)