You may have heard that eating grilled meat that is charred can put you at higher risk for high blood pressure. But it’s not just outdoor cooking that’s the culprit. Any high-temperature cooking — grilling, roasting or broiling — can increase your chances of developing hypertension.
“When you cook the meat to high temp and you char it, there’s a certain chemical that starts to form that may lead to high blood pressure over time,” says preventive cardiologist Haitham Ahmed, MD
Identifying a link
Researchers confirmed the link between high-temperature cooking and high blood pressure in a study
that followed more than a 100,000 people over the course of 12 to 16 years. The results show that those who frequently cooked red meat, fish or chicken at higher temperatures were more likely to develop high blood pressure.
“The people who had the highest risk were grilling 15 times a month — that’s every other day,” Dr. Ahmed says. The study found that those in this group had a 17 percent higher risk of hypertension than those who cooked their meat at high temperatures only four times per month.
The cooking method wasn’t the only factor that boosted hypertension risk. The study also found that those who ate the most charred meat had a 17 percent higher risk of high blood pressure. Those who ate their meat well-done boosted their risk by 15 percent.
Why it matters
High blood pressure can lead to heart attacks, strokes, or kidney and heart failure, but generally has no symptoms. Even if you aren’t aware you have it, it can still damage your heart and blood vessels.
That’s why it’s important to have your blood pressure checked regularly and to understand what the numbers
tell you about your heart health. If you do have high blood pressure, getting it under control can help you reduce your overall risk of heart disease or other life-threatening conditions.
The bottom line
If you’re wondering whether you should toss out your grill (or broiling pan), the short answer is no. Moderation is the key.
Dr. Ahmed says you don’t need to give up open-flame cooking and other high-temp methods completely. But it is a good idea to limit how often you grill your meat — maybe once or twice a week — and try to avoid charring. He also recommends cutting down on red meat in general, which typically comes with more sodium.
From Dr. Ahmed’s perspective in his focus on prevention, you should aim for a comprehensive approach to managing all the risk factors
for high blood pressure — from being overweight to having a sedentary lifestyle. It’s important to develop lifestyle changes that emphasize exercise, a healthy diet
and stress reduction, he says.