Your Health Tamar Raucher | 6 years ago

Sugar and Your Heart: The Not So Sweet Truth

You probably know by now that cheeseburgers and fries – or any foods loaded with fat and salt – aren’t the greatest for heart health. But what about that morning latte or those Valentine’s Day desserts?

A healthy heart lets you stay focused on doing what you love.  Learn how Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute can help you keep your heart healthy.  If you’ve ever wondered how sugar affects your heart, it’s time for the not-so-sweet truth. “Most people know excess amounts of sugar can cause a host of health problems, from obesity to diabetes,” says Ashesh Patel, MD, a cardiologist at Carolinas HealthCare System’s Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute. “Not surprisingly, too much sugar can cause major problems for your heart, too.” Read on for three ways sugar hurts your heart health – and how to find your sweet spot with the sweet stuff.
  1. It Spurs Heart Disease
Yes, sugar is fuel for your body - but too much of it can also fuel heart disease. How? It’s a chain reaction: Too much sugar causes weight gain and obesity, which in turn leads to high blood pressure, diabetes and the fatty buildup in your arteries known as atherosclerosis. It’s these conditions that set the stage for heart disease. “Cardiovascular disease is the umbrella term for a range of harmful conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels,” Dr. Patel says. “And studies show that a diet high in added sugars significantly raises your risk of dying from it.”
  1. It Jams Up Your Arteries
When your arteries get clogged, it’s not always the obvious fat and cholesterol-laden foods that are to blame. Eat too much of the sweet stuff, and the excess sugar also gets converted to – you guessed it – fat. “The waxy substance clogs up your blood vessels,” says Dr. Patel, “and that can lead to a heart attack or stroke.”
  1. It Beats Up Your Heart Muscle
Too much sugar can also do direct damage to the heart’s structure and function. A recent study showed that a small glucose molecule in sugar can cause changes to the heart’s muscle, affecting how it pumps and ultimately leading to heart failure. Heart failure doesn’t mean your heart has stopped working – it means your heart’s not pumping enough blood to meet your body’s needs. “Heart failure is serious,” says Dr. Patel, “and it can lead to complications like shortness of breath and fluid buildup in your limbs.” Find Your Sweet Spot So, how much sugar should you be having? The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day for women, and 9 for men. (Need a reference point? One can of cola packs about 10 teaspoons.) And don’t worry – fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other sources of naturally occurring sugar don’t count toward the limit. Need help cutting back on sugar? Check out our best tips to help you control your intake.