If this article doesn’t answer all of your questions about high blood pressure, please be sure to bring it up to one of our physicians at your next visit. Dr. Rugh and Dr. Helms are dedicated to helping every Greenlite patient achieve optimum health.
In the United States, greater than 75% of hypertensive patients are reported to be attributed directly to obesity, and the risk of developing hypertension is 5-6 times greater in obese adult Americans ages 20-45 compared to non-obese individuals the same age. Unfortunately, hypertension typically does not have associated symptoms, but can have devastating consequences which include heart disease, stroke, loss of vision, and kidney failure. In addition, obesity and hypertension affects virtually all societies, age groups, ethnicities, and genders, thus necessitating strategies for prevention and successful treatment.
Blood pressure is the measurement of force placed on the arterial walls with each heart beat. The systolic pressure (top number) is the pressure as the heart contracts, while the diastolic pressure (bottom number) is the measurement of the heart relaxing as it fills with blood. Ideal blood pressure is 120/80mmHg (measured in millimeters of mercury), but can run lower and higher depending on various factors, including body size, activity levels, medications, diet, and stress levels. When the blood pressure becomes higher than 140/90mmHg for more than 3 consecutive readings, a person is considered to have hypertension. The recommendation while in a doctor’s office is to take 2 separate readings about 5 minutes apart in order to obtain more accurate and consistent readings. If you tend to suffer from “White Coat Hypertension”, this means that blood pressure readings can be transiently elevated at the doctor’s office, and that it is better to record your own readings with a blood pressure cuff at home.
A frequently asked question regarding blood pressure relates to the importance of systolic or diastolic blood pressure and their correlation to cardiovascular disease. Based on the findings of recent major clinical studies, more focus has been placed on the systolic blood pressure as an important risk factor, especially in those greater than 50 years of age. For most people, the systolic blood pressure increases steadily with age because large blood vessels become stiffer and less compliant. Diastolic blood pressure tends to have a different pattern as we age, involving an increase until we reach about 50, then a plateau for about 10 years, followed by a persistent leveling or even a decrease later in life.
Obesity causes natural resistance to insulin, which is the hormone secreted by the pancreas to lower blood sugar levels. In order to compensate for insulin resistance, insulin production is increased, which affects the blood pressure in the following ways:
- Induces thickened blood vessels, thus increasing rigidity, decreased compliance, and an increase in blood pressure.
- Increases adrenalin, which increases cardiac output.
- Promotes reabsorption of water and salt by the kidneys, causing increased blood volume, therefore increased blood pressure.
Cardiovascular risk is linear and doubles for every 20 mmHg over 10 mmHg increase in blood pressure, but even as little as 10 pounds of weight loss can be enough to lower your blood pressure. With continued weight loss, you may be able to reduce the number of, or even eliminate the blood pressure medications you might be taking! Other ways to reduce blood pressure are by incorporating 30 minutes of physical activity daily or for most days of the week, keep sodium intake down to 2 grams daily, minimize alcohol and caffeine intake, and reduce stress levels.
If you are overweight , it is important to check your blood pressure as soon as possible in order to minimize health risks and prevent permanent organ damage. Most pharmacies have blood pressure monitors for use at no cost. In addition, there are local health fairs that offer free blood pressure checks by a health professional, so check with a pharmacy or do an online search for more information on dates and locations.
Written by Dr. Allison Helms – Greenlite Physician