According to the CDC, hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects nearly half of all Americans. Several factors can contribute to hypertension, including excess body weight. To treat high blood pressure, weight loss is often recommended. What is the mechanism by which weight loss lowers blood pressure? How much weight must you lose if you want to lower your blood pressure?
To understand hypertension better, let's first review it in more detail. The presence of consistently high blood pressure is a sign of hypertension. An individual's blood pressure is how much pressure is exerted by their blood against the walls of their arteries (the vessels that carry their blood away from their hearts). Heart attacks and strokes are more likely to occur with high blood pressure.
We get two numbers from measuring blood pressure:
During a heartbeat, the pressure in the arteries increases. This is called systolic blood pressure. A blood pressure reading begins with this number.
During diastole, your heart relaxes between beats, causing your blood pressure to drop. When a blood pressure reading is taken, it is recorded as the bottom number.
Based on the latest guidelines from the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, a hypertensive state is defined as a systolic blood pressure above 130 mmHg OR a diastolic blood pressure greater than 80 mmHg (based on an average of two careful readings taken on two separate occasions).
Hypertension can be classified as either primary or secondary. The most common type of hypertension is primary hypertension, also known as essential hypertension. Primary hypertension is likely to be caused by genetics and environmental factors. Medications or medical conditions may cause secondary hypertension, which is less common.
Essential hypertension is associated with a number of risk factors. It is possible to modify some of them, while others are beyond our control. Diets high in salt, lack of physical activity, excess body weight, tobacco use, and alcohol use can all be modified to reduce risk. Family history/genetics, age, masculinity, and race are non-modifiable risk factors for hypertension.
Hypertension is also associated with many chronic diseases. Chronic kidney disease, obstructive sleep apnea, high cholesterol, and diabetes mellitus are some of the most common health conditions. We can often improve them with healthy eating habits, regular exercise, and weight loss, even if they are out of our control.
Many studies have shown a link between increasing body weight and higher blood pressure, making excess body weight a major risk factor for hypertension. Several mechanisms are likely to be at work here, and the reasons are complex and still being investigated:
The central nervous system is activated by excess body weight due to elevated insulin and leptin levels. Blood pressure increases as the central nervous system become more active.
The kidneys reabsorb sodium more quickly when the body is overweight. The result is an increase in blood volume and increased artery pressure.
Inflammation and abnormal artery function are associated with excess body weight. Increasing blood pressure results from hardening and narrowing of the arteries.
It is good to know that science suggests losing weight or maintaining a healthy body weight can lower blood pressure. In the event of high blood pressure, weight loss is often the first treatment recommended, and it can also delay the progression of higher blood pressure levels.
A primary goal of hypertension treatment is to reduce blood pressure so that serious conditions such as heart attacks and strokes can be reduced. In order to improve your blood pressure, you can do several things, including:
Blood pressure and heart disease risk can be reduced by eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Salt intake can also be reduced by reducing it by at least 1000 mg per day (ideally less than 1500 mg a day).
Weight management and lowering blood pressure are both improved by regular physical activity, regardless of weight loss.
Your blood pressure will improve greatly if you do this. If you lose 2.2 pounds, your blood pressure will drop by about one point.
In general, women should limit their alcohol consumption to one standard drink per day, while men should limit their alcohol consumption to two standard drinks per day. The regular beer weighs 12 ounces, wine weighs 5 ounces, and spirits weigh 1.5 ounces. In addition to improving weight management, limiting alcohol consumption can also improve blood pressure.
You can benefit your health by quitting smoking or using tobacco products. As a result of quitting smoking, blood pressure is reduced.
Depending on the severity of your blood pressure problem, your health care provider may recommend starting a medication to lower your blood pressure if you have elevated blood pressure, are at high risk for heart disease, or are unable to lower your blood pressure by trying healthier habits and losing weight. Hypertension can be treated with the following medications:
Combine lifestyle changes with weight loss. By reducing your blood pressure, you may be able to reduce your medication intake and your risk of serious conditions such as heart attacks and strokes. Studies show that eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein is good for weight loss and blood pressure reduction when it is low in saturated fat, salt, and alcohol. Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) is one such diet with a lot of scientific evidence behind it. However, losing weight through any healthy eating plan that reduces calories is possible. It is even more effective when done in conjunction with physical activity. Exercise has been proven to reduce aerobic and resistance-trained blood pressure and weight loss. Simply getting more active, whatever that looks like for you, is the goal.
You can reduce your risk of heart disease and lower your blood pressure without losing weight by making these healthy lifestyle changes. It is even more beneficial if you also lose weight. A simple 5% weight loss can make a big difference in your blood pressure - and it doesn't even have to be much.
If you have made appropriate dietary and physical activity changes but have not lost weight after making changes, you may want to seek help from a healthcare professional. You can use an FDA-approved weight loss medication in conjunction with nutritional modifications, guidance on increasing physical activity, and assistance with long-term behavior change as part of an individualized heart-healthy treatment plan.
We may be a perfect match for you if you consider losing weight, improving your blood pressure, and improving your overall health. To create personalized weight loss paths for every patient, our Board Certified Doctors and Registered Dietitians take into account their medical history, preferences, and goals. In just 12 months, patients lose an average of 15% of their body weight with our medical weight loss program, which is covered by insurance, including Medicare.