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Understanding Obesity Related Diseases: Hypertension and High Blood Pressure

As more of our population become obese and overweight, obesity diseases become much more prevalent. Hypertension is one such disease, and here I explain what it is, why it affects the overweight, symptoms and prevention.

blood-pressureWhat is it?
Hypertension is one word meaning elevated or high blood pressure.  Known as the “silent killer” due to it being asymptomatic (not showing significant signs or symptoms). It typically leads to having a fatal stroke or heart attack.  High blood pressure is defined as having a consistently elevated arterial blood pressure.  When a doctor or nurse takes your blood pressure, they measure the systolic and diastolic blood pressure.  Being hypertensive means you have a systolic blood pressure above 140mm Hg or diastolic blood pressure is above 90mm Hg (normal blood pressure = systolic of 130mm Hg and diastolic of 85mm Hg).  Untreated hypertension can result in heart failure, renal disease, and peripheral vascular disease.

Why is it affected by obesity/overweight?
Obesity is strongly associated with hypertension and heart disease.  Having a lot of stomach in your midsection or gut area is a huge indicator of heart problems. There is considerable amount of evidence suggesting that excessive weight gain can lead to hypertension.  Obesity is also associated with renal dysfunction/disease, which could also lead toward hypertension.  It’s amazing how interlocking our body and organs are.  You want them all functioning properly together because one problem in the body can easily correlate to many others.

What are the symptoms?
Scarily, most times people do not experience any symptoms of high blood pressure/hypertension.  A few people with early-stage high blood pressure may have dull headaches, dizziness, or experience a few more nosebleeds then normal.  These signs and symptoms typically do not occur until your hypertension has a reached advanced and possibly life-threatening stages. It’s recommended to have your blood pressure checked twice a year, every year once you turn 20.

What can you do for prevention?
Although there is no cure yet available, prevention and management decrease the incidence of hypertension and decrease the likelihood of developing associated diseases.  Four factors you can control to help lower your chances of having high blood pressure.

  • Weight – maintain a healthy weight.  This weight maintenance plan should be part of having a healthy diet and doing routine exercise.
  • High Salt Intake – lower the amount of high sodium, processed foods.
  • Alcohol consumption – decrease your alcohol intake.  Practice moderation, which is one glass of alcohol per day for women and one to two drinks for men.
  • Physical Inactivity – it’s important to do a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week to have heart health benefits.

Side note: family history/genetics can play a part in developing hypertension, so if it runs in your family you need to try extra hard to control the factors you can (i.e. diet, exercise, alcohol intake).  Also, African-Americans have a higher prevalence of hypertension then any other race/ethnic group.

April 23rd, 2009