Hypertension, or high blood pressure, refers to elevated levels of pressure in the blood in arteries. Normal blood pressure is 120/70 or lower. Prehypertension is a blood pressure from 120/70 to 139/89. Hypertension refers to a blood pressure of 140/90 or higher.
It is estimated that 58 to 65 million adults in the United States have high blood pressure. Hypertension is the most common reason for doctor visits among non-pregnant adults and for the use of prescription medications.
Weight gain is associated with the risk of developing high blood pressure. People who are obese have excess fatty tissue that increases vascular resistance and increases the amount of work the heart has to do to pump blood through the body. According to the Framingham Heart Study, excess body weight was responsible for 26 percent of cases of hypertension in men and 28 percent of hypertension cases in women.
The percentage of obese people in the United States is increasing. Over a third of Americans are obese.
Abdominal obesity refers to fat distribution in the abdominal trunk. A man with a waist circumference greater than 40 inches or a woman with a waist circumference greater than 35 inches has abdominal obesity. Abdominal obesity has the most influence on blood pressure.
Many people with hypertension take medication to lower their blood pressure. Losing weight can also significantly lower blood pressure. If a person loses weight and achieves a healthy blood pressure, it may be possible to reduce the amount or number of medications taken.
Losing weight can have other medical benefits beyond lowering blood pressure. It can also reduce the risk of diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease.