It may be the day after Valentine’s Day, but lets continue this theme of hearts. Your heart is the most important organ in the body as it pumps blood throughout the veins, providing the body with oxygen and nutrients needed for survival. But what happens when the amount of blood that flows through your veins becomes too dense? It will begin to apply pressure to the inner walls of the arteries, thus leading to high blood pressure, more formally referred to as hypertension.
In previous blogs, I’ve briefly touched on the fact that obesity increases your risk of early death. One of the main reasons for this is that the risk of having high blood pressure increases as your weight increases. The link between high blood pressure, aka hypertension, and obesity was established decades ago. It’s important to know that both obesity and hypertension increase the risk of heart disease, heart attack, bad heart rhythms, stroke, kidney disease (think dialysis) and diabetes.
The Hearty Truth
We know that 2/3 of American adults are overweight and that 1/3 is considered obese—and these rates are only continuing to grow every year. Simultaneously, the rates of hypertension are increasing around the globe.
*World Map of the prevalence of high blood pressure in men as of 2014 | Source: Wikipedia
Understanding the Statistics
Studies have shown that by 2025 an estimated 1.56 billion people worldwide (that is 20% of the world population) will suffer from high blood pressure, a 60% increase from 2000! A famous investigation of heart disease, known as the Framingham Study, suggests that about 78% of the hypertension cases in men and 65% in women can be directly attributed to obesity. While this study is limited to the citizens of Framingham, MA, a nation-wide health survey known as NHANES, looked at nearly 1 million Americans. The NHANES study showed a strong upward link between blood pressure and weight that held true for children and adolescents as well as adults.
The Framingham Heart Study noted that a 5% weight gain increases hypertension risk by 30% in a 4-year time period. However, there’s good news! The study also showed that weight loss reduces both systolic and diastolic blood pressures.
Tying the Knot between Obesity & Hypertension
There are many theories as to why obesity may encourage the formation and worsening of hypertension. Some of the more persuasive models focus on damage to the kidneys or the hormone system that directs kidney function, causing obese patients to retain sodium and water. Others suggest that the added stress of carrying extra weight causes increased work for the heart and stimulates a part of the nervous system that encourages fluid retention and muscle contraction. Additionally, it’s well known that fat cells themselves secrete hormones that encourage the kidneys to hold onto water and increase your blood pressure.
Regardless of the mechanisms, there are several points to take to heart:
1. If we find it, we can fix it! Have the blood pressure of all your family members checked several times a year. One high blood pressure reading doesn’t mean that you have hypertension—it does mean that you need to monitor it frequently though in the result that it does lead to hypertension.
While there is some controversy, we would like adult blood pressures to be less than 130/80. Speak with your doctor about the appropriate levels for children.
2. Weight loss helps everything! Losing even a small amount of weight,10% of your body weight, can yield significant reductions in your blood pressure. Many Live Healthy MD patients lose this amount of weight in less than 2 months and you can be one of those patients too!
Live Healthy MD is prepared to help you deal with two of the biggest killers of Americans, obesity and hypertension. Today is a great day to take control of your life and make it a long, healthy one.