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Not-So-Sweet Link Between Sugar and Heart Disease

February 22, 2023

Roses are red, candy is sweet, but did you know all that sugar is bad for your heart beat?

In fact, one recent study found that higher sugar intake was associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

Lisa Canter, MD, a Hartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular Institute cardiologist in Plainfield, shares facts about sugar and its impact on your health.

he people found to have the highest risk of heart disease or stroke consumed about 95 grams of free sugar per day, or 18% of their daily energy intake, Watling said.

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The study

The research looked at the eating habits of more than 100,000 people in the United Kingdom over nine years. It found that every 5% increase in a person’s energy intake from sugar, increased risk of heart disease (6%) and stroke (10%).

Those who consumed 95 grams of free sugar per day – around 18% of their energy intake – were at the highest risk of heart disease or stroke.

Free sugars are added sugar not found naturally in the food.

Sweet danger

As good as it may taste, Dr. Canter says sugar can:

  • Increase chronic inflammation
  • Raise blood pressure
  • Cause liver issues
  • Lead to weight gain and appetite control problems

How much sugar is okay?

The American Heart Association suggests women have no more than 100 calories (about 6 teaspoons) and men no more than 150 calories (about 9 teaspoons) of added sugar per day. That’s about the amount in a 12-ounce can of soda.

Dr. Canter notes, “There are healthier options out there such as diets that are higher in fiber, lean proteins and complex carbohydrates. Your diet should be lower in processed and packaged foods, salt and sugar.”

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It’s especially important in Heart Health Month to consider how diet and lifestyle can impact the health of our hearts, she continues.

Symptoms of a heart attack, she says, include:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fainting
  • Palpitations
  • Unusual fatigue with exercise

If chest pain lasts more than a few minutes or becomes worse, call 911 immediately. Chest pain accompanied by any symptoms above can indicate a heart attack or another serious condition that needs immediate attention.

“Treatment can vary based on what is uncovered and how severe the heart attack is,” Dr. Canter says. “Often, we start with medications – cholesterol-lowering medication, blood pressure medication and medication for diabetes. Other procedures may be needed.”

Learn more about the HHC Heart & Vascular Institute

The Hartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular Institute, a national leader in cardiovascular disease prevention, treatment, surgery and research, cares for more patients and performs more advanced cardiac procedures than any other cardiac program in Connecticut. Our doctors use the most innovative technology available to provide the very best, personalized care for patients.

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