Troubling Blood Pressure, Please Help

Hello everyone,

I've been following a semi-Bulletproof diet (details below) for about a month and a half now and my results have been both encouraging and incredibly worrisome, so I was hoping I could get some help in figuring out what I ought to be doing differently. I'm 23 years old, male, and very active with low body fat (I would wager 6-7%, I've always been lean). I lift weights (back squats, deadlifts,overhead presses, weighted pullups, weighted dips) usually 3 times a week, and I also regulary practice Muay Thai/Kun Khmer kickboxing on the heavy bag. I'm not currently training at a kickboxing gym so my kickboxing training is a bit erratic, but roughly I do 20-40 minutes 2-4 times a week on the heavy bag.

I felt compelled to get some feedback here because my blood pressure has really skyrocketed. I feel as strong, athletic, coordinated, and fit as I have in my entire life on some days, and the acne that I have been dealing with since adolescence has largely disappeared, but I also have some very troubling episodes where my heart seems to pound extremely fast and hard for no discernible reason. Couple this with the blood pressure readings I've been getting since changing my diet significantly a month and a half ago (149/95 and 132/90 yesterday, before exercise and after sitting down and breathing slowly for several minutes), and there is something seriously amiss. That this is related to diet seems extremely probable, because back when I was eating significantly more vegetables, fruits, oats, nuts, seeds and beans my blood pressure measurements were always in the ideal range, somewhere between 95-115/65-75. I was also eating very low sodium in this time period, much much lower than at present (essentially no added salt, all whole foods). I stopped eating that old diet, however, because it caused me a number of indigestion problems, made me feel weaker, and did nothing to clear up my skin after several months (the specific diet I was doing was based largely on the work of Dr. Joel Furhman). So my present dilemma is this: In some ways I feel much better eating this way as opposed to a more "conventional wisdom" type diet, yet I also have these extremely alarming changes as well concerning my heart and blood pressure. I do not know what my lipids or cholesterol is because I frankly don't have money to spend on medical testing barring very good reason to do so. I would expect, based on my blood pressure, that they might be quite alarming as well, but I don't really know.

As far as diet goes, I've been doing my best given my sorry financial state (no job, just graduated college).

A typical day looks like this:

Bulletproof coffee w/ 1.5-2 tbs Kerrygold unsalted butter, 1 tbs Trader Joes organic coconut oil, 2 cups

worth brewed with upgraded coffee beans

1 lb grass fed hamburger or chuck steak, to which I will add kale or bok choy and 1-1.5 cups steamed white rice 2-4x a week, sometimes I eat plain. I have been salting the meat relatively heavily with iodized sea salt because I have no other reliable source of iodine that I know of. (I have ordered NOW Kelp powder, however, so I should have something soon). Cooked in 1 tbs butter usually.

1/4 cup almonds

1.3oz (one serving) dark chocolate 72% (not ideal, but affordable)

One giant smoothie consisting of:

2 large carrots

4-5 handfuls of spinach

1 cup diced bell peppers

1/2 cup blueberries

4 strawberries

1 banana

2 cups of filtered water

1 tbs extra virgin olive oil

3-5x a week I will also have 4-5 eggs (they are not pastured, but have non-pale yellow yolks at least), cooked in butter or coconut oil.

In terms of supplements, I take 1-2 g Vitamin C, 2,000-4,000 IU Vitamin D, 600mg Magnesium, and a Fermented Cod Liver Oil/High Vitamin Butter Oil mixture from Green Pastures (4 pills a day). I have been sporadically taking calcium supplements because I lack a consistently good source of bioavailable calcium in my diet, but I have also heard that calcium supplementation may be problematic over time, so I'm a bit ambivalent and only take it now and again. Some days I will take 5g pure creatine monohydrate, maybe 2-4x a week.

I expect my current woes have little or nothing to do with the white rice or anything in the smoothie, because when my blood pressure was much lower I was consuming 2 of those smoothies every day in addition to many other sources of carbohydrate. The biggest difference between then and now would be the amount of sodium I consume and the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol I consume, especially in the form of grass-fed butter, non-pastured eggs, and grass-fed beef. This leads me to the conclusion that I am either sodium sensitive, which seems like it may be the most likely, or that I am somehow sensitive to the tablespoons of butter fat and coconut oil I regularly consume day in and day out. I have tried to provide all the relevant information, so please let me know what you think and if there is anything else that you would like me to elucidate.

Thanks a lot,

Casey Leggett


  • Hey Casey

    What are your stress levels like? Any anxiety at all?

    When your heart raises do you have any additional symptoms - chest tightness, shortness of breath, light-headedness or sweating?
  • edited June 2012
    I wouldn't consider myself very stressed or anxious. Obviously I'm not free of either but I don't experience them to any extent that would make me think they are the problem. Could be wrong on that score, though, apparently it's a tricky thing to really be aware of in its entirety. I actually got an emWave2 about a week ago now and I've been using that fairly often, so I figure that should help with any potential stress or anxiety issues. I've been able to achieve 95%++ high coherence on the low challenge setting the majority of the time in the last few days.

    When my heart rate spikes I have a very keen awareness of my heart beating, I can feel my heart pounding away in my chest like it is shoving blood through my body forcefully. I've never noticed it making me sweat, and oddly enough I seem least affected when I am exercising, often vigorously. My endurance and strength are pretty much as good as they have ever been, I think. It almost always happens when I'm sitting down doing something like reading or when laying down to sleep. Sometimes I will feel some discomfort in the far left region of my chest, around the bottom of the left pectoral muscle nearest to my left arm. I've never felt like I couldn't breathe or noticed any dramatic change in my conscious experience other than the heightened awareness of my heart pounding and some intermittent discomfort in my left chest region (which often does not occur at the same time as my heart rate acting up). I hope that answers your questions.

  • Hey bud

    From everything you have said I tend to agree that the increase in your blood pressure is probably related to your change in diet; and specifically your increased sodium intake (rather than sat fat or cholesterol). You might even find that your blood pressure is just fluctuating whilst your body recalibrates and gets used to the bulletproof diet. Forgot to ask - any family history of kidney disease?

    My advice - try not to worry about it. As you're aware, stress contributes to hypertension and you can end up exhibiting white coat hypertension even when you take it yourself. Whilst your blood pressure has risen, it's not excessively high so, presuming you continue to feel fine, I would maybe give youself three months, continue on the bulletproof diet (perhaps reducing your sodium intake) and I imagine your blood pressure will stabilise. Then, if you're still having problems then it would be worth getting a blood assay - specifically kidney function. That's one of the few benefits of living in the UK - free healthcare!

    I went through exactly the same thing about 9 months ago - my blood pressure had always been in the ideal range (plenty of cardio, lifting and fighting) but suddenly went in to the pre-hypertensive range for two months. It then stabilised and has been fine ever since.

    Really glad you got the emWave2. Apart from being excellent for stress management and sleep, it is also clinically proven in the treatment of hypertension. I use mine every day - wouldn't be without it.

    Good luck man.
  • Hey Casey, Ive had a similar heart pounding and elevated blood pressure since starting bulletproof. When I started to do intermittent fasting it improved a little. Its also very different to my old diet (vegan, really low salt, and low fat). But im different to you in that I am trying to lose weight. Since i cut calories down my heart rate has slowed, though i havent had my blood pressure measured for a bit.

    I guess really the only difference we have in common is the increased fat and cholesterol from our old diets. But there are other people on the forum who have reported heart pounding since increasing fat.

    Best of luck,

  • Hey man

    Just had another thought whilst making my bulletproof coffee this morning.

    Have you considered caffeine sensitivity? Not sure how much caffeine you were consuming before you started on the bulletproof coffee and what source it might have come from.

    Just a thought.
  • edited June 2012
    Hey Paul,

    As far as I know my family does not have any history of kidney disease. Concerning caffeine, it may be possible that I'm sensitive to caffeine to some extent, but through my entire adolescence and up until the last year or so I was drinking cappuccino, caffeinated tea, and energy drinks very often. I would have some significant source of caffeine every single day. When my blood pressure was lowest I was still drinking 3-6 cups of green/oolong/houjicha tea, which all have some caffeine in them, each day. I think I was also have an energy drink every few days at this time also. I have been wondering if it might be somehow related to coffee though, because the problems seem to have started right around when I started drinking the coffee (but also when I began salting my food regularly). I have actually cut out all added salt for the last two days and yesterday was the best day I've had in some time in terms of symptoms. My heart did not go crazy and when I was using my emWave2 before bed my heart rate was the lowest it has been by a good amount since getting the device. I also did not notice any heart pounding whatsoever when I was laying down to sleep, which has been a consistent theme for a while now. My blood pressure yesterday was 126/88 and 124/89. That is still a bit high (diastolic mostly) but obviously any changes will take some time to exert their full effect, and I find it encouraging that I've noticed an improvement subjectively in such a short time. I'm not going to declare that salt was the problem and that everything is fine just yet but it looks promising. Thanks for all the feedback!


    That's interesting. The diet I was on was actually not very low fat before, it was just all fat from things like nuts, seeds, etc. It was about 35-40% fat I think. There is definitely a whole lot more saturated fat though, as opposed to mono and polyunsaturates. As far as I know there isn't much reason to think saturated fat and cholesterol would raise blood pressure in any dramatic fashion, which is another reason I think the salt or something else is the culprit. Thanks for your input, hope you can figure your situation out as well.
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