Hypertension and Obesity: The Link and How to Treat It
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is commonly seen on overweight or obese people. While not everyone who has hypertension is overweight, hypertension is more prevalent in the obese population and it is considered a serious comorbid medical condition. Hypertension itself is related to a host of diseases that can shorten life expectancy. It is estimated that about 65 million adults in the United States are currently suffering from hypertension. Many of them don’t know it. It is a leading cause of stroke and it can cause a devastating and permanent disability.
If you are overweight or obese, it is important to get your blood pressure tested and to get the right treatment if you have hypertension. It is essential to your physical health and overall well-being to have your blood pressure and your weight under control.
Blood pressure is a measure of the force of your heart beat against the walls of the major blood carrying vessels called arteries. Blood pressure is normally recorded as two numbers. The first is called systolic pressure and measures the force against the artery walls when your heart contracts. The second number is called diastolic and measures the force when your heart relaxes.
Although “normal” blood pressure is variable, in general it is considered to be pressure of 120 systolic over 80 diastolic or lower. Hypertension occurs when someone’s numbers rise to 140/90.
Blood pressure is affected by several factors such as the strength of your heart and the resistance of your blood vessels to the passage of blood.
The Link between Hypertension and Obesity
There have been dozens of studies to show the link between hypertension and obesity. One of the longest studies lasted for 44 years and was called the Framingham Heart Study. It found that excess body weight led to 28 percent of the hypertension cases in women and 26 percent of the hypertension cases in men.
The researchers involved in the study looked at other risks of obesity and found that approximately 15 percent of cases of heart disease in women and 23 percent of heart disease cases in men were caused by obesity.
The larger your body becomes, the more blood vessels are required to nourish all the additional cells or tissues. More blood vessels means that the heart, the only true “pump” in our body, has to increase the force of its contractions to ensure your blood can travel through all of the blood vessels. At the same time fat cells excrete hormones that affect your kidneys and make them less capable of regulating pressure by retaining or excreting fluid as urine. Fat also excretes other hormones that actively work to trigger reabsorption of sodium which subsequently increases blood pressure further.
Finally, the increased deposits of fat in the kidneys and the weight of abdominal fat around the kidneys creates structural changes that gradually leads to impaired kidney performance in regulating blood pressure.
How to Treat Hypertension
After recommendations of losing weight, reducing the salt intake, blood pressure medications are typically the first medical treatment suggested for hypertension. However, not everyone responds to the medication the same way. Some patients may need to try different medications or add more medications before they find what works for them.
Some people are able to lower their blood pressure simply by losing weight and getting healthy. In these patients, medication isn’t always needed because their hypertension was caused by their excess weight.
However, you should consult a doctor and not assume that losing weight will eliminate hypertension. You may still need other treatments.
Prevention of medical problems such as hypertension is always the recommendation. If you are currently overweight, talk to your doctor to get help losing the extra pounds through a healthy diet, exercise, or weight loss surgery.
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