Risks of High Blood Pressure
About 67 million adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure, or hypertension. That’s about one out of every three adults. Each year, more than 350,000 deaths are attributed to hypertension — about 1,000 people each day. Hypertension has been linked with a host of diseases and conditions, including heart disease and heart attack, heart failure, kidney disease and stroke.
Obesity is one of the causes of hypertension in the U.S., and the link between the two conditions has been well-established, dating back to the late 1960s. Since that time, many studies have underscored the relationship between excess body weight and high blood pressure. For example:
- A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that obese people were significantly more likely to suffer from hypertension compared to those who were not obese (39.8 percent versus 25.8 percent).
- The Framingham Heart Study found that obesity is associated with nearly three-quarters of all cases of hypertension.
- A study from Harvard researchers found that overweight and obese individuals are three times more likely to develop hypertension compared to normal-weight individuals.
Obesity leads to insulin resistance, which in turn damages the arteries, making blood flow less efficient. In addition, obesity is often associated with higher levels of cholesterol and atherosclerosis, or “hardening” of the arteries, which increases the risk for hypertension. Many people who struggle with obesity also have mobility issues, leading to a sedentary lifestyle, which significantly increases the risk of hypertension, heart attack and stroke.
Dietary changes can play an important role not only in shedding unwanted pounds, but also to help promote lower blood pressure. For instance, adding foods rich in antioxidants like vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids has been linked with a decrease in blood pressure and helps to prevent damage done by free radicals. Onion and garlic, including garlic supplements, have also been shown to be beneficial for lowering blood pressure. And the American Heart Association recommends that people exercise for at least 30 minutes each day to reduce the risk of developing hypertension.
While diet and exercise are the most important things you can do to take-off weight and reduce your risk of hypertension and related diseases, many significantly overweight and obese men and women find it very difficult to break free of the metabolic changes that can occur as a result of weight gain. For these people, bariatric surgery provides a solution that can be effective even when diet and exercise don’t work.