Intermittent Fasting and Blood Pressure:
Intermittent fasting is a popular dietary routine that involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting. Intermittent fasting has a lot of benefits on our body including weight loss, metabolism and reducing sugar levels. But the question arises, Can it lower blood pressure? I will discuss the relation between intermittent fasting and blood pressure and some tips to do intermittent fasting (IF) safely and effectively further in this article. Lets dive deep into the details it to understand that how can intermittent fasting help in reducing blood pressure levels in the body.
Blood pressure and its importance:
The pressure of blood on the walls of arteries due to the pumping of heart is called blood pressure. It is typically measured in mmHg and expressed as two values. These values are known as Systolic and Diastolic. The pressure when the heart beats is called diastolic while when the heart rests, the pressure is then called systolic.
According to WHO, high blood pressure is a severe disease and causes death and disability. And it also affects almost 1.13 billion people throughout the world.
Many factors can affect the value of blood pressure in your body. These factors are age, genetics, diet, lifestyle and certain medications aswell. Some of these factors can’t be modified such as genetics but some of these factors can be controlled and used to help maintain blood pressure if we make healthy choices. One of these healthy choices is the intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting and blood pressure: Can IF lowers B.P?
Intermittent fasting can help to lower blood pressure by using several mechanisms. Here are some of them:
- Calorie restriction: With the help of calorie restriction, Intermittent fasting can lead to weight loss in the body or prevent the weight gain. As we know, excessive weight can be a cause of various diseases and can increase your blood pressure by increasing strain on your heart and arteries. Losing the excessive weight can lower your blood pressure by reducing this strain and improving your insulin sensitivity and inflammation levels.
- Nervous system relaxation: Intermittent fasting activates the “rest and digest” mode in your body, which is also known as the parasympathetic nervous system (P.N.S) . The activation of this system reduces your heart rate, lowers the breathing rate and blood pressure as it activates the nerve known as vagus nerve. On the other hand, if you do not practice intermittent fasting and continue to eat regularly, the other system is engaged known as the Sympathetic Nervous System(S.N.S). This system is the complete opposite of P.N.S and has the opposite actions. It stimulates the release of stress hormones. These hormones when released, increase the heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure. for eg adrenaline and cortisol.
- Changes in gut microbiome: Different micro organisms and bacterias live in our digestive system and are collectively called gut microbiome. Intermittent fasting can change the composition and function of the normal flora of our gut. The gut microbiome in our body can influence the blood pressure by producing substances that affect blood vessels, hormones, inflammation, and immune system.
- Water loss: Intermittent fasting can help to lose water weight by reducing the carbohydrate intake and glycogen stores. Glycogen is a form of stored glucose that binds water molecules in our muscles and liver. When we fast, we use up the stored glycogen in our body for energy purposes, this releases the water molecules into our bloodstream. This can help to lower blood volume and blood pressure temporarily.
- Insulin sensitivty: Insulin is a hormone of our body known for the regulation of glucose levels in the blood. It has also been linked intricately to reduce blood pressure. Insulin sensitivity is related to the body’s ability that how efficiently insulin is working in the body. High glucose levels in the bloodstream can lead to rise in blood pressure. Insulin prevents this from happening and thus can have positive impact on the blood pressure control. Insulin is also linked with the production of nitric oxide which helps to relax and widen the blood vessels and thus lowers the blood pressure.
Benefits to reduce blood pressure with intermittent fasting:
Using the intermittent fasting to reduce the blood pressure has a lot of health benefits for us. Some of these are:
- Reduced risk of CVS diseases: One of the major risk factors for a variety of heart diseases is the high blood pressure. Lowering blood pressure with intermittent fasting can help to reduce the damage to our arteries and heart which occurs due to it. The flow of blood from the heart and the supply of oxygen to our body’s organs can also be improve due to it.
- Improved Brain health: High blood pressure can impair the cognitive function and increase the risk of dementia by damaging our brain cells and reducing their oxygen supply. Lowering blood pressure with intermittent fasting can protect our brain cells from getting damage and also enhance their growth and repair.
- Enhance Kidney function: High blood pressure can damage our kidneys and alter its ability to filter waste and fluids from the blood. This can even lead to kidney failure. Lowering the blood pressure with intermittent fasting can help to reduce the chances of kidney failure and improve fluid balance and electrolytes.
- Better mood and sleep: High blood pressure can affect your mood and sleep quality by disrupting our circadian rhythm, which is the natural 24-hour cycle of biological processes. This can make us feel stressed, increased anxiety and we will have trouble falling or staying asleep. Lowering your blood pressure with intermittent fasting can restore your circadian rhythm and improve sleep and mood as it will help to regulate the neuro-transmitters, hormonal aswell as melatonin levels.
Tips on how you can do intermittent fasting safely and effectively for blood pressure:
Here are some ways you can adapt to do intermittent fasting safely and effectively,
Consult with your doctor:
If you are already suffering from some diseases or taking certain medicine, then intermittent fasting is not safe for you. In that case, you must consult with a doctor before doing any such thing. For eg: if you have heart diseases, kidney diseases or if you are a breast feeding women, then you should not do intermittent fasting without the supervision of a healthcare professional. The doctor can help you in determining that if you can do intermittent fasting or not and also modify your medicines accordingly.
Start gradually and listen to your body:
Intermittent fasting can be challenging at first, especially if you are used to eating frequently or have a high appetite. It can make you feel hunger pangs, headaches, fatigue, or dizziness as your body is not used to of this new low calorie eating pattern. To avoid these symptoms or minimize them, start slowly and increase the duration and frequency of your fasting periods over time. For example, you can start with 12 hours fasting window and then later on increase it to 14 and 16 according to your body needs. Listen to your body and stop fasting if you feel unwell or uncomfortable
Drink plenty of water:
Intermittent fasting can cause you to lose water weight by using the glycogen stored in your body and reducing the overall intake of carbohydrates.
Although it can help you to lower blood pressure temporarily but it can also cause dehydration in the body and lead to headache, fatigue, kidney stones etc. To prevent dehydration, drink plenty of water and fluids during your fasting and eating periods.
Eat nutritinous foods and avoid processed foods:
Intermittent fasting does not mean you should eat whatever you want during your eating periods. The quality of your food matters as much as the quantity for your blood pressure and health. If you want intermittent fasting to yield your desired results , then you need to eat healthy. Eating nutritious foods is very useful to lower your blood pressure and improve health. It is because these foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole proteins, nut etc contains vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that is useful for lowering the blood pressure.
On the other hand, processed foods which includes fast foods, junk foods etc are responsible for rise in blood pressure. By eating these foods you add additional calories, sugar , salt to your diet which can have negative impact on your blood pressure.
If your goal is lowering blood pressure with intermittent fasting then you should opt for nutritious foods and avoid processed foods as much as possible.
Exercise is another important factor that can lower your blood pressure and enhance the effects of intermittent fasting. Exercising regularly can help you to lose weight and provide strength to your heart. However, it can also increase the blood pressure temporarily during high intensity or prolonged exercise. Therefore, to balance the benefits and risks of exercise for your blood pressure, exercise regularly and moderately.
Avoid doing exercises for too long during your fasting periods.
Some FAQs related to intermittent fasting blood and pressure:
1. Can intermittent fasting (IF) help to lower blood pressure (B.P)?
Yes, intermittent fasting can help to reduce blood pressure as it also helps in weight loss, improved insulin sensitivity and stress which can help in lowering the blood pressure.
2. Can intermittent fasting replace blood pressure medications?
No, Intermittent fasting can only help in better management of Blood pressure, it should not be seen as a substitute for prescribed medications. If you have been prescribed blood pressure medication, it is crucial to continue taking it as directed by your healthcare provider.
3. How does intermittent fasting lowers Blood pressure (B.P)?
Intermittent fasting helps to lower Blood pressure through various mechanisms such as improved insulin sensitivity, weight loss, calorie restriction and nervous system relaxation.
4. Is intermittent fasting safe for older adults with hypertension?
Intermittent fasting can be safe for older adults with hypertension, but it is crucial to start it with caution and under the guidance of a healthcare professional. Older adults may have specific health considerations and may be taking medications that can interact with fasting protocols.
5. How long does it take to see improvements in blood pressure with intermittent fasting?
The time it takes to see improvements in blood pressure with intermittent fasting can vary from person to person. Some may experience changes within a week while others can take longer time to see improvements.
Intermittent fasting is a dietary trend that can lower your blood pressure by several mechanisms. It can help you consume fewer calories overall, relax your nervous system, modulate your gut microbiome, and lose water weight. It can have a lot of benefits for brain, kidney, sleep and CVS health.
Intermittent fasting and blood pressure are closely related and if you decide to reduce blood pressure with intermittent fasting, start gradually and listen to your body. Drink plenty of water and fluids during your fasting and eating periods and engage yourself in moderate exercises regularly to enhance the effects of intermittent fasting.
However, it is not generally safe for everyone and thus consultation with a healthcare professional is necessary before starting.
Hi, I’m Affan lateef , a pharmacist by profession. I have a degree in pharmacy and over 5 years of experience helping people achieve their health goals. I write about various topics like health, artificial intelligence in health, mental health, diet and weight loss. Follow me here on these platforms given below.