If you’re in the upper part of your normal weight range or are outright overweight, you might want to do something about it, especially if you’re getting up there in age. The relationship between being overweight and having high blood pressure is well-established.
The upper part of the normal blood pressure range can be a danger zone for heart attack and stroke. Investigators at Kaiser Permanente, in Portland, Oregon, looked at almost 600 men and women who were ten to sixty-five percent above their ideal weight, and who had slightly elevated blood pressure. All were given weight reduction counseling, and later were compared to a like-sized group who received no such guidance. It was found that a ten-pound weight loss effected a drop in diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure by 2.7 mm of mercury, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but which is significant. For those who dropped twenty pounds, diastolic pressure dropped by 7 mm of Hg. During this 3-year study, those who managed to keep the weight off also managed to keep their blood pressure under control, as opposed to the control group. “Clinically significant long-term reductions in blood pressure and reduced risk for hypertension can be achieved with even modest weight loss” is the conclusion. (Stevens. 2001)
Though a decade old, the cited study is pertinent. The dietary habits of Americans are paving a road to dereliction by creating serious health concerns that include obesity, diabetes, CVD, and hypertension. For every pound of fat above your ideal weight, you might be adding miles of blood vessels. Although fat doesn’t need the vasculature that muscle does, it needs to be fed nonetheless. If you were to add another hundred feet to your garden hose, you’d notice the water dripping out the end instead of flowing with purpose. Unless you have a pump, you’ll not likely increase water pressure. Your heart, on the other hand, will notice a need for increased pressure to get blood to the other end of the line and will do just that—increase the pressure. If this goes on for too long, it just might start giving you trouble.
The Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) has been deemed an effective management tool. Lifestyle modifications and salt reduction, along with a diet filled with fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, eliminating / limiting saturated and trans-fats and empty calories, was found to be effective in reducing blood pressure by considerable margins. Those with the highest blood pressure realized the greatest benefits. (Kolaska. 1999) Exercise alone can lower blood pressure, but it’s not going to happen until you do it. Combined with a behavioral weight loss program, even a modicum of exercise will show an enhanced effect. (Blumenthal. 2000) Health of the entire cardiovascular system is at stake, and the rewarded decrease in ventricular mass and wall thickness should be motivation enough to get an overweight hypertensive guy movin’ and shakin’. The improvements in peripheral vascular health are also measurable, and conditions such as peripheral arterial disease may be forestalled. (Bacon. 2004)
The development of obesity causes significant changes inside the body, things you can’t see. Extra blood vessel formation is one such change. And the accumulation of fat around the middle and the accompanying elevation in blood pressure may change lifestyle in an unwanted direction.
Stevens VJ, Obarzanek E, Cook NR, Lee IM, Appel LJ, Smith West D, Milas NC, Mattfeldt-Beman M, Belden L, Bragg C, Millstone M, Raczynski J, Brewer A, Singh B, Cohen J; Trials for the Hypertension Prevention Research Group. Long-term weight loss and changes in blood pressure: results of the Trials of Hypertension Prevention, phase II. Ann Intern Med. 2001 Jan 2;134(1):1-11.
Kolasa KM. Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) in clinical practice: a primary care experience. Clin Cardiol. 1999 Jul;22(7 Suppl):III16-22.
Blumenthal JA, Sherwood A, Gullette EC, Babyak M, Waugh R, Georgiades A, et al Exercise and weight loss reduce blood pressure in men and women with mild hypertension: effects on cardiovascular, metabolic, and hemodynamic functioning. Arch Intern Med. 2000 Jul 10;160(13):1947-58.
Bacon SL, Sherwood A, Hinderliter A, Blumenthal JA Effects of exercise, diet and weight loss on high blood pressure. Sports Med. 2004;34(5):307-16.
Lijnen HR. Angiogenesis and obesity Cardiovasc Res (2008 May 1); 78 (2): 286-293.
Blumenthal JA, Babyak MA, Hinderliter A, Watkins LL, Craighead L, et al Effects of the DASH diet alone and in combination with exercise and weight loss on blood pressure and cardiovascular biomarkers in men and women with high blood pressure: the ENCORE study Arch Intern Med. 2010 Jan 25;170(2):126-35.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.