If you’re considering fasting, either for religious reasons or as a way to lose weight, please first consider the effects of fasting on your heart and blood pressure.
It can be dangerous in certain situations.
Most of us know that Cardiologists, Nutritionists, and Diabetes Educators recommend we limit our food intake in general. Eating less, especially of the wrong things, is healthier all around. However, it’s not safe for everyone.
Here are some things to consider about the effects of fasting on your heart and blood pressure:
Will it strengthen your heart?
Research shows that fasting can help lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, control diabetes and reduce weight, four of the major risk factors for heart disease.
However, fasting can lead to an electrolyte imbalance.
- This can make the heart unstable and prone to abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias).
Potassium supplements may be recommended to prevent electrolyte imbalance.
The total amount of potassium that you get every day includes what you get from food and what you may take as a supplement.
- Read the labels of processed foods. Many foods now have added potassium.
- Your total intake of potassium should not be greater than the recommended amounts, unless ordered by your doctor.
In some cases, too much potassium may cause:
- muscle weakness
- irregular heartbeats
- difficult breathing.
According to the American Cancer Society, other side effects may include dizziness, light-headedness, headaches and low blood pressure (hypotension).
Fasting For Weight Loss:
Although there are some health benefits from fasting, including a lower risk for heart disease, it’s not really the best way to lose weight.
- It may help you drop the weight quickly, but it does nothing to help you stay in shape.
Fasting isn’t safe for everyone. Be sure to discuss it with your physician before you start.
>Pregnant or breastfeeding women
>Children and teenagers
>Type 1 diabetics
- Anyone with an eating disorder which includes anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.
Other considerations as expressed by many in the medical community include:
- Fasting and exercising at the same time may lead to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), which can cause dizziness, confusion, light-headedness, and headaches.
• Fasting by people taking diabetes medications can lead to severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and serious health issues.
• Skipping breakfast may be considered fasting by some because it can result in several hours without food, but skipping breakfast can be unhealthy and has been associated with obesity.
A recent article from the Mayo Clinic highlights the following from Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, M.D.
- More study is needed to decide whether regular fasting can lower your risk of heart disease.
- Most scientific evidence on fasting comes from animal, not human, studies.
- The studies that have been done on people are mostly observational, which has the lowest level of scientific evidence.
While there are different methods of fasting, I do not personally recommend it, so they will not be discussed here.
However, if you’re serious about trying it, it’s extremely important to discuss it with your physician and NOT take advice found on the internet. Such advice may not be supported by current medical standards or solid medical research.
Keep in mind that a heart-healthy diet (see link below)and exercising regularly can improve your heart health, without risk.