Maintaining a healthy weight can keep blood pressure in check.
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High blood pressure, also called hypertension, increases the risk of heart attack, kidney disease and stroke. The right medications can help lower blood pressure and prevent long-term complications. Medications are more effective when paired with healthy lifestyle changes, such as following a low-sodium diet and exercising regularly. If you're overweight, weight loss may allow your health care provider to lower the dosage of your medication or you may be able to stop taking it.
The Weight Connection
Nearly 80 million adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. People who are obese are almost twice as likely to have hypertension as those who are not. Being overweight or obese places added stress on the heart and circulatory system, which increases the odds of high blood pressure. Additionally, other risk factors for hypertension, such as a diet rich in sodium and a sedentary lifestyle, often contribute to weight gain. Nevertheless, researchers have found that being overweight or obese, in and of itself, leads to a higher risk of high blood pressure.
Weight loss among overweight people has been linked to a number of health benefits, including improved blood pressure control. A 2009 review published in the journal "Hypertension" corroborated previous research that showed that for approximately every 2 pounds of weight loss, systolic blood pressure drops by about 1 mmHg. Other studies have shown that weight loss in conjunction with a low-sodium diet leads to even greater reductions in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
When the weight stays off, high blood pressure can often be managed with a healthy diet and exercise plan without medications. Recent research suggests genetic variations may make it more difficult for some people to control their blood pressure through weight loss and other lifestyle changes alone. As a result, health care providers often recommend medications to keep blood pressure within a target range. Calcium channel blockers such as amlodipine (Norvasc), beta-blockers including atenolol (Tenormin) and angiotensin-converting-enzyme, or ACE, inhibitors such as lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril) are examples of commonly prescribed blood pressure medications.
Even if your doctor recommends you remain on blood pressure medications, keep in mind that making heart-healthy lifestyle choices further reduces your risk of heart attack and stroke. Changing your diet may also allow your health care provider to reduce the dosage of your blood pressure medications.
Because both diet and exercise play essential roles in maintaining a healthy weight, it's not surprising that physical activity also helps improve blood pressure. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce mortality in general and among people with hypertension in particular. Staying active and maintaining a healthy weight can enhance and may even extend your life.