If you are overweight or obese, chances are high that you also have high blood pressure. Weight is, in fact, directly proportional to blood pressure level. This is why losing weight has the biggest impact on high blood pressure treatment.
Blood Pressure 101
Blood pressure, simply put, is the force or pressure that blood exerts against the walls of arteries. Throughout the day and depending on your activity level and other factors, blood pressure rises and falls constantly. When your blood pressure stays at elevated levels, you have high blood pressure or hypertension.
About two-thirds of elderly people, aged 65 and up, suffer from high blood pressure. Those whose blood pressure has remained within the normal range by age 55 have a 90% likelihood of developing high blood pressure later in life. The condition is something that most people will experience during the course of their life.
High blood pressure causes the heart to work too hard to pump blood throughout the body. If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to the hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis; increase the risk for heart disease and stroke; and even lead to more serious conditions, such as congestive heart failure, kidney disease, and blindness.
Some people only find out that they have hypertension after a visit to their doctor; others recognize the symptoms and receive a confirmed diagnosis after a physical check-up. If you do have hypertension, you will be advised by your doctor on what your blood pressure goal should be, what steps you need to take to lower your blood pressure and a timetable for reaching your target.
Strategies to Lower Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). For the average adult, a blood pressure level of 140/90 mmHg or higher indicates high blood pressure. The first number represents “systolic pressure” or the pressure against the arteries as the heart beats; the second number represents “diastolic pressure” or the pressure against the arteries as the heart relaxes in between beats.
When you formulate a strategy to lower your blood pressure, it will help if you can monitor your blood pressure levels at home, in between doctor visits. Write down your blood pressure at the time of your most recent check-up and your blood pressure level target. Refer to these numbers every time you check your own blood pressure at home so you know if you are on the right track.
Weight Loss and Blood Pressure
If you are overweight or obese, losing weight through healthy eating and exercise should be the priority to lower your blood pressure.
Being overweight or obese is typically determined by measuring body mass index, or BMI, and waist circumference. BMI measures your weight relative to your height to provide an approximation of total body fat. You can find BMI figures/charts online, or you can calculate this yourself using an online BMI calculator. Waist measurement is also important as abdominal fat is a definitive indication of unhealthy weight and is associated with an increased risk for a variety of serious diseases.
A BMI of 25 to 29.9 puts you in the overweight range; a BMI of 30 or higher makes you obese. A waist measurement of 35 inches or more for women and 40 inches or more for men is considered high.
Slow and steady weight loss is key, or between ½ pound and 2 pounds per week. Especially if you have a lot of excess weight to lose, your initial weight-loss goal should be small and realistic, about 10% of your current weight within the first few months. It’s important to stick to a weight-loss plan that is doable for you so you can make sure that you’ll be able to sustain it long-term which will translate to continuous weight loss week in and week out, and month in and month out.
You can choose from the many weight-loss programs available online; you can opt to follow just one or combine a separate diet plan and fitness plan. But the most effective plans are all based on the same principle: you have to consume fewer calories than you burn every day, or burn more calories than you consume. You can do this by counting calories or simply eating more low-calorie foods; by engaging in more physical activities; or both.
How many calories you burn on a daily basis depends on a variety of factors. So you will need to figure this out to have a baseline. In general, you need to burn 3,500 calories more or eat 3,500 calories less than you usually do per week (500 calories per day) to lose one pound.
There are a number of ways to approach your weekly weight-loss goal:
- Count your calories. This involves keeping a food diary so you can keep track of what you eat and how many calories you’re consuming per meal and per day. Again, you have to know how many calories you burn daily and aim to burn 500 calories more than this number per day, or eat 500 calories less.
- Develop an eating plan that is naturally low in calories. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and high-quality protein, and less processed, take-out, and junk foods.
- Be more physically active. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-level physical activity at least 3 times a week. You can also spread out these 30 minutes (or more) throughout the day; a continuous workout is always best, but any increase in your physical activity level is good. Choose one or more activities that you enjoy to keep you motivated.
- Combine one or more weight-loss strategies to lower your blood pressure. A healthy diet plus exercise is a no-fail combination.
Will Weight Loss Lower Your Blood Pressure? – Bottomline
Losing weight is one of the best ways to lower blood pressure. In fact, losing just 10 pounds can already have a significant impact not just on your blood pressure levels but on your overall health, as well, if you are overweight or obese.
Aim for slow and steady weight loss through a combination of healthy eating and exercise. Your weight-loss strategy should be realistic to be sustainable long-term, and a holistic approach which involves adopting an overall healthy lifestyle is a sure-fire way to achieve and maintain a healthy weight and healthy blood pressure levels.
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