In recent years, intermittent fasting has become a popular way to harness the body’s natural fat-burning capabilities, lose weight, and benefit from a whole host of great health results. And for good reason— it works!
But when it comes to the effects of cardiovascular health, does fasting lower blood pressure?
The good news is that, yes, intermittent fasting does work to lower blood pressure levels, and there is science to support it! And to further understand why, we will discuss the exact reasons for this result, including:
- How to reduce high blood pressure by fasting.
- 3 fasting benefits that improve cardiovascular health.
- Fasting side effects you should know when starting out.
How To Reduce High Blood Pressure by Fasting
Unfortunately, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular health issues are very common, with many adults suffering the adverse effects of diabetes, elevated blood pressure, and other inflammations.
Research shows that one of the ways to treat such health problems is through significant lifestyle and diet changes for the better, such as intermittent fasting.
Thanks to an extensive study, fasting and blood pressure are closely connected. The beneficial effects of fasting on the heart actually do lower blood pressure.
This is caused by an increase in parasympathetic activity in the body and cardiovascular system, paired with positive manipulation of the gut’s microbiota— results that are directly tied to intermittent fasting.
In essence, because the fasting process pushes your body into a state of ketosis and enhances the entire metabolic nervous system, cellular function is heightened and lowers both oxidative stress and blood pressure levels, as your heart can pump blood easier.
Plus, as you lose more weight and burn fat through a fasting plan, your activity and exercise levels rise, contributing even further to healthy blood pressure levels.
So really, fasting and high blood pressure are directly linked, as one of the best ways to change your lifestyle and body naturally. And you can even turn to fasting to prevent heart disease proactively before it happens!
Find the Best Intermittent Fasting Schedule for You
Now that you know a bit more about the relationship between fasting and blood pressure, as well as the effects of fasting on the heart, you might be wondering how to start your intermittent fasting journey.
Well, there are several options open to you, depending on your lifestyle, work or activity schedules, and preferred eating habits.
Various fasting plans have different windows of time for calorie restriction and eating, depending on how long you are able to fast, and the health benefits you want to achieve. Let’s discuss the most popular types of intermittent fasting now, as a brief overview.
A great plan for newcomers to the world of fasting, this plan includes a five-day period of eating normally, followed by restricted caloric intake for the remaining two days. You should keep between 500 and 600 calories for the two days of fasting.
This weight loss and visible changes for this style of intermittent fasting are not as swift as other plans, but it’s a very doable method for busy individuals or those who are just starting out and need to get used to the fasting process in short periods.
Another beginner-friendly method, this program essentially follows a normal sleep-wake cycle in terms of when you can and cannot eat. For instance, you can choose to fast between finishing dinner at 7:30 p.m., and then break your fast in time for breakfast the next day, at 7:30 a.m.!
The key is to have 8 hours of fasting to let your body burn out of blood sugar and turn to fat storage to sustain itself, giving you about half that time in fat-burning, ketosis mode.
For this plan, you adopt a 14-hour period of strict fasting, offset by a 10-hour eating window to have your daily caloric allowance. These meals outside of periods of fasting should still follow a healthy diet plan, including plenty of lean meats, vegetables, water, and very few carbohydrates.
Once you get into the habit of the 14:10 schedule, it can be very easy to maintain, and can yield very effective results— particularly if paired with good activity levels and healthy meals outside of fasting!
By restricting your eating period to only 8 hours of the day, you can commit to 16 hours of vigorous fat-burning. Additionally, the frequency of the 16:8 method can be easily tailored into the rest of your fasting schedule, such as once a month, twice a week, or even every day.
It’s best to stick to only low or zero-calorie drinks during the fast, such as water and tea, and to only eat healthy, well-balanced meals during the 8 hours of feasting.
Also known as the Warrior Diet, this method is a fairly intensive way to incorporate windows of eating and restricting into your schedule. Essentially, you will embark on a 20-hour period of complete fasting, offset by only 4 hours of being able to eat.
When you are in the window of time where you’re allowed to eat, make sure to have meals with complex fibers and proteins, and avoid items that are high in carbohydrates or sugars, and the changes in your body will be visible!
This method is also referred to as One-Meal-A-Day (OMAD) and consists of just that— you fast for a full day before returning to a normal eating schedule.
However, this plan is also very flexible, as you can choose when the fasting period starts and ends, based on your preferences.
For example, if you need to eat breakfast before doing some important activities, tailor your 24-hour fast to accommodate that. Alternatively, start it after dinner time and fast until the same time the next day.
And while this is a great way to see some quick results, keep in mind that it is also a very difficult form of fasting.
For many people, the process of alternate-day fasting is full of health benefits and is a great way to help lower blood pressure fasting to reduce inflammation of your blood vessels, boost your metabolism, and stimulate autophagy for diabetes prevention.
With this method, you simply alternate the days on which you eat and fast, resulting in a full day of restriction between 500 and 600 calories, followed by eating normally.
Use the DoFasting App for Success
No matter the plan, using the DoFasting app can help you select a schedule that works for you. Plus, with recipes, timers for fasting and eating windows, and a guide for when to consume food, coming out of a fasting period has never been easier.
Do Not Overeat After a Fast
While it might be tempting to “make up” for what you weren’t able to eat during whatever fasting window you chose, don’t make that mistake!
After you break your fast, avoid overeating or binging on meals. Instead, opt for well-proportioned, balanced dishes that will satisfy you and leave you feeling fuller for longer.
Additionally, overeating immediately after a fasting period strains your digestive and metabolic system— something that immediately affects your heart, including high blood pressure and inflammation.
Increase Your Daily Mineral Intake To See Positive Results
Supplementing your diet with appropriate vitamins and minerals is a good idea, and for those looking to lower their blood pressure levels, it’s even more essential.
Crucial minerals that help blood pressure remain at healthy levels include potassium, magnesium, and calcium which help with electrolyte imbalance. Because these supplements work to lower chronic inflammation throughout the body, and particularly in the cardiovascular system, they are important for heart health and low blood pressure levels.
If you are not eating enough foods high in minerals, such as spinach, fish, and legumes, it’s wise to take supplements to compensate for electrolyte imbalance!
Reduce Your Blood Pressure by Eating More Healthy Foods
It’s important to pair fasting periods with preparing and eating nutrition-dense, well-balanced daily meals.
If you rely on processed food or meals that are high in carbohydrates after fasting, your body will not get the nutrients required to maintain intermittent fasting or keep blood pressure levels low. Additionally, keeping your alcohol consumption low during fasting helps to reduce weight and high blood pressure.
A combination of good fats like olive oil, lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, whole grains, and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables is key when eating healthy meals.
Examples of great meals to supplement your intermittent fasting routine include:
- Oven-Baked Camembert with Salmon Salad— A delicious mixture of protein and healthy fats, paired with nutritious greens.
- Mediterranean Barley with Chickpeas— Get your daily dose of fiber and complex carbs in, along with a large serving of yum!
- Poached Eggs and Bacon on Toast— Start the day right with proteins, fats, and a complex carbohydrate to stay with you until lunch.
You can also find over 5000 tested and tasty recipes on the DoFasting app, ready for your next kitchen adventure.
Reduce Your Daily Intake of Sodium
While salty foods can be delicious, excessive sodium in your diet can be catastrophic for your heart health and diastolic blood pressure levels.
To prevent this, try and choose the low-sodium options when shopping for groceries and avoid adding extra salt to meals. Instead, lean into a variety of other flavorful seasonings, like paprika, ginger, or thyme.
Plus, a low-sodium diet also lowers cholesterol levels, assists in weight loss, and reduces your risk of kidney damage— so it’s a win-win!
How Long Should You Fast Before Seeing Positive Results?
One of the most common questions about intermittent fasting is the time frame involved with the results.
And this is particularly true if you want to start your fasting journey with the goal of lowering your blood pressure, as having even an estimated interval can be beneficial.
While fasting results do depend largely on factors like the type of fasting/feeding schedule you follow and your activity level, research has shown a fairly remarkable timeline of the effects of fasting on blood pressure.
Studies reveal that a group of individuals who fasted intermittently for a period of 4 to 21 days showed significant reductions in blood pressure levels, as well as weight and blood sugar levels.
Because of the metabolic switch experienced, the participants’ bodies went from burning blood glucose for fuel to using ketones to target fat stored within their bodies, a process that happens surprisingly fast.
This change triggered noteworthy changes not only in weight but also in low blood pressure levels, all with fasting periods and eating cycles revolving around 4 to 21-day plans, repeated as-needed.
How Long Does Reduced Blood Pressure Stay For?
How long the effects of fasting on blood pressure remain does tend to depend on an individual’s diet and lifestyle outside of the fasting windows, but there’s reason to believe that such results can stay prevalent.
For example, a study has shown that blood pressure dropped remarkably in patients who undertook intermittent fasting, over a period of 4 to 41 days.
Most significantly, when a “normal”, healthy diet was reintroduced in phases over another 4 days, their blood pressure levels remained lowered, even after stopping heart disease or blood pressure medication to combat it.
Thus, the effects of reduced systolic blood pressure seem to be sustainable, if your lifestyle is well-balanced!
But low blood pressure levels and preventing heart disease are certainly not the only health benefits that fasting provides.
3 Fasting Benefits That Improve Cardiovascular Health
Fasting for a healthy heart is a great way to change your lifestyle for the better. Experts recommend intermittent fasting for cardiovascular fitness, including the process of ketosis, the shift from using glucose as fuel to fat-burning, and better metabolic processes that even help with other health issues.
Assists Weight Loss
As previously mentioned, intermittent fasting transforms the body into a fat-burning machine for rapid weight loss.
So, instead of merely shedding water weight during your progress, you are actually permanently removing body weight and fat stores for a long-lasting and total transformation, while reducing the strain put on your heart and blood pressure.
Helps Control Diabetes
Entering ketosis with fasting does more than help you lose weight— it also helps to lower insulin levels, eventually normalizing blood sugars.
Understandably, this is a major benefit for anyone with diabetes or blood pressure issues, as fasting can help control it naturally and easily.
Among all the other benefits of intermittent fasting, medical experts agree that it also works to reduce cholesterol very effectively.
Metabolic switching triggers fat-burning throughout the body, which lowers cholesterol levels dramatically, as fatty acids are converted to ketones. Without using glucose to fuel the body, fat is the only source of energy and so the associated cholesterol levels are slashed.
Fasting Side Effects You Should Know When Starting Out
Intermittent fasting is much like other lifestyle changes, including fasting side effects for newcomers to this type of diet whose bodies might not be used to going without food for a period of time.
Short term side effects that some fasting beginners might experience are mild, but can include the following:
- Headaches or dizziness.
- Weakness or Shakiness.
- Inability to Focus.
However, these side effects are often only temporary, as your body adjusts to a decreased caloric intake. It might help to ease yourself into the intermittent fasting lifestyle with a less drastic plan, and then work your way up to longer and longer fasts!
Should You Try Intermittent Fasting?
The intermittent fasting journey is generally safe for most people to embark on, and the health advantages are certainly worth it, including the effects of fasting on the heart.
However, there are some groups of people who are more at risk for developing problems because of fasting, and should discuss other options with a doctor under medical supervision.
These groups include persons who fall under the following considerations:
- A history of eating disorders.
- At risk of a heart attack or stroke.
- Below the age of 18.
- Chronic illness sufferers.
- Heart disease.
- Pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Taking certain prescription medications.
As we can see, fasting does lower blood pressure. Through better metabolic processing, lower cholesterol, and weight loss, the effects of fasting on blood pressure are noticeable and positive, including preventing heart disease.
And with some simple changes, like healthy meals and less sodium, as well as a lifestyle change for the better, you too can benefit from the wide array of results seen by intermittent fasting!