How Can Weight Affect High Blood Pressure?

Obesity is a growing health concern in the United States. About two-thirds of adults were classified as overweight or obese in a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Obesity can put you at risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, certain cancers, and high blood pressure (hypertension). Over 75 percent of high blood pressure is estimated to be related to obesity.1

What problems can high blood pressure cause?

Over time, if high blood pressure is left untreated or uncontrolled, it can lead to other health problems such as:2

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Kidney problems
  • Heart failure

High blood pressure increases the work of your heart and blood vessels. This makes them less efficient. The best way to protect yourself from the effects of high blood pressure is to prevent and manage the condition.2

What are the risk factors for high blood pressure?

There are certain characteristics or behaviors that may place you at risk for developing high blood pressure. These are known as risk factors. Knowing and understanding what your risk factors are can help make you more aware of your risk for developing high blood pressure.

There are some risk factors that you cannot change, such as:3

  • Family history
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Chronic kidney disease

But there are other risk factors that you can change to help prevent or manage high blood pressure. These risk factors include:3

  • Lack of physical activity
  • An unhealthy diet, diet high in salt, or heavy alcohol use
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Sleep apnea
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Stress

What is the relationship between weight and blood pressure?

Research has shown that weight plays an important role in blood pressure. Weight gain causes an increase in blood pressure. Weight loss causes a decrease. Many of the risk factors that are associated with high blood pressure and heart disease are related to an unhealthy lifestyle and being overweight or obese. Patients with obesity are also most likely to have high blood pressure that is resistant to high blood pressure drugs.1,4,5

One study found that excess weight gain as a young and middle-aged adult can lead to high blood pressure levels in midlife. The study showed weight gain between young adulthood and midlife is one of the most important factors in midlife blood pressure levels.1,4,5

What can I do?

Focusing on the risk factors you can change is essential to prevent or manage high blood pressure. One of the key ways to control high blood pressure is to manage your weight. Even small weight loss changes can come with many health benefits. Making necessary changes to your diet and increasing your physical activity are a great starting point to losing weight.6

Follow a heart-healthy diet

Following a heart-healthy diet can reduce your risk or help you manage your blood pressure. To follow a heart-healthy diet, eat a diet that is high in:6

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Skinless poultry and fish
  • Nuts
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Whole grains

And limit the following foods:6

  • Saturated and trans fats
  • Alcohol
  • Fatty meat
  • Added sugars

Become more active

Being more active not only helps you to lose weight, but it can also reduce your stress and lower your blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends at least 2 hours and 30 minutes per week of moderate to intense physical activity. An easy way to remember and reach this goal is to aim for 30 minutes at least 5 times a week. Start slow and choose activities you enjoy to make meeting these goals easier.6,7

Consider hypertension drugs

Follow your doctor’s recommendations for taking medicines. You may need more than one type to get your blood pressure under control. It is also important to be aware of how over-the-counter drugs may affect your blood pressure. Discuss any changes in the medicines you take with your doctor first.6

While high blood pressure cannot be cured, you can be proactive. With lifestyle changes, the right treatments, and the help of a doctor, people with obesity can prevent or control high blood pressure.6

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