Sugar’s Impact on Heart Disease

Jul 30, 2021 08:00:01AM

There’s no way to sugar coat it (pun intended) – eating too much sugar can kill you. Heart disease is the number one killer in the developed world, and high sugar consumption is an important contributing factor to look at.

What Is Heart Disease?

Heart disease is actually a catch-all phrase for a variety of cardiovascular diseases that specifically impact the heart. (CVD or cardiovascular disease is the even larger umbrella term that covers heart disease as well as other diseases of the blood vessels.)

In the US, over 800,000 people die from CVD each year (about 630,000 of those being from heart disease), making it responsible for one out of every three deaths. 11.7% of American adults have been diagnosed with heart disease, making it extremely prevalent. Why are these numbers rising and affecting so many Americans?

How Does Sugar Contribute to Heart Disease Numbers?

Sugar consumption increases the risk of heart disease through direct and indirect routes.

For the average American, added sugars make up over 10% of total calories consumed. For over 10% of Americans, however, added sugars actually make up 25% or more of their daily caloric intake. For those that fall into this category, they’re more than twice as likely to die from heart disease than those whose diets are made up of less than 10% sugar. In one 15-year study, the risk of dying from heart disease rose parallel with increasing sugar consumption, showing how closely the two are related.

Sugar contributes to heart disease by elevating blood pressure, causing tooth decay (a factor in CVD), causing weight gain that adds extra resistance in the blood vessels and strain on the heart, increases cholesterol levels, and exacerbating other related diseases.

Comorbidities and Other Contributing Factors

Sugar in the diet is a twofold problem – the added calories contribute to weight gain, and they lack nutrients and therefore decrease the nutrient density of the meal. People who eat large amounts of sugar are getting fewer necessary nutrients and suffer from more health problems because of it.

Sugar consumption increases the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, obesity, hypertension, artery diseases, and other health problems that contribute to and are common comorbidities of heart disease. Other common comorbidities include COPD, vision problems, osteoarthritis, and cancer. Diets high in sugar (and therefore low in important nutrients) contribute to this variety of interconnected health problems. 

The Big Picture

It’s hard to miss the upward trend of sugar consumption mirroring the increase in diseases like obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease. It’s also hard to ignore how much overlap there is between the causes, symptoms, and diagnoses of these diseases. Fortunately, healthy lifestyle changes seem to be the key commonality for preventing these diseases, and they are firmly within your control. 

You can protect your heart and health by:

  • Getting adequate exercise
  • Eating less sugar and salt
  • Giving up smoking (or avoiding it in the first place)
  • Controlling your weight
  • Managing stress

A life of disease and suffering is never anyone’s goal, and by avoiding the sugar consumption that so often contributes to these health problems, you can live your best life and be your healthiest self.

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