As defined by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), blood pressure is the pressure of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. Arteries carry circulating blood from your heart to other parts of your body.
When someone has high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, the increased pressure can damage their heart and put them at risk for heart disease and stroke – two of the leading causes of death in the U.S. Nearly half of adults in the U.S. (108 million, or 45%) have high blood pressure and only about 1 in 4 have it under control.
Categories of Blood Pressure:
- Normal: < 120 mm Hg (systolic) and < 80 mm Hg (diastolic)
- Elevated: 120-129 mm Hg (systolic) and < 80 mm Hg (diastolic)
- Hypertension Stage 1: 130-139 mm Hg (systolic) or 80-90 mm Hg (diastolic)
- Hypertension Stage 2: ≥ 140 mm Hg (systolic) or ≥ 90 mm Hg (diastolic)
When it comes to managing hypertension, weight-loss is the most important step in improving your quality of life. Healthy weight management is also a way to prevent problems with blood pressure from happening later down the line since the two are closely connected.
Weight Gain and Blood Pressure
Weight gain that increases fatty tissue (body fat) can also increase vascular resistance. This means that the heart has to work harder to pump blood through the body.
Not everyone who gains weight, however, distributes fat in the same places. Some people gain more weight in their belly area while others will gain it in their thighs, buttocks, etc. Abdominal fat, which is fat distributed in the belly area, has the greatest impact on blood pressure and carries the highest risk of hypertension.
Weight gain can also:
- Reduce your glucose tolerance (insulin resistance)
- Affect glucose and lipid metabolism
- Increase LDL (bad) cholesterol and decrease HDL (good) cholesterol
- Make breathing more difficult
Managing Blood Pressure through Weight Management
If you have hypertension, your healthcare provider might recommend blood pressure medications. Everyone responds differently to medications and it might take you a while to find the combination that works best for you.
A healthy diet and regular exercise are also behavioral factors that are key to reducing blood pressure. Weight management is another benefit. Even weight-loss as little as 5-10% of your total body weight can have significant health benefits, so don’t feel discouraged if you don’t see sweeping changes on the scale right away!
In many cases, patients who lose weight while trying to reduce their blood pressure will decrease the number of medications they take or even go off of medication completely. This is why weight-loss can be a huge boost to your quality of life when it comes to your health.
Again, healthy lifestyle changes are instrumental for lowering your weight and blood pressure. These changes should feel sustainable to you so that you can stick to them in the long-term.
- Weight gain is associated with increased blood pressure.
- Hypertension is associated with numerous other diseases and conditions – heart disease, stroke, etc.
- Weight-loss can lead to a significant drop in blood pressure, allowing you to reduce your number of medications or go off of them completely.
- Use healthy lifestyle behaviors like diet and exercise in conjunction with any treatment plan for hypertension.
- Prevention is better than any medication, if/when possible.