It’s understandable why you might be concerned about losing weight if you suffer from high blood pressure, as you need to take care of your exertion level. However, there are many ways to lose weight sensibly and safely if you have high blood pressure.
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According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 42.4% of American adults are obese, and 9.2% have severe obesity.¹ Weight gain is a common cause of high blood pressure. In fact, obesity increases your risk of getting high blood pressure by as much as 65% - 75%.² So, weight loss has a significant impact on lowering your blood pressure.
Losing weight will relieve some of the pressure on your heart, allowing it to pump blood more efficiently.
People can often lose weight by making positive lifestyle changes, such as enjoying a healthy diet. If these changes successfully control your blood pressure, you may not need to take blood pressure medication.
While it is true that some high blood pressure medications like beta-blockers may result in weight gain and make weight loss a particularly challenging endeavor, you can still go on a successful weight loss journey. Before considering ways to go on about your weight loss, do not forget to consult with your doctor.
Your doctor can recommend an experienced weight loss specialist who will customize a weight loss plan to minimize the need to take the medications whose side effects include weight gain. The weight loss program will also improve your healthy eating habits, thus creating a sustainable lifestyle. It will consist of exercises approved by your doctor to help you lose weight and keep your hypertension at bay.
There’s an established connection between weight gain and blood pressure.³ Weight gain can play a role in increasing blood pressure. But is the reverse true? Can high blood pressure cause you to gain weight?
High blood pressure itself does not cause obesity but can impact the renin-angiotensin system (RAS). RAS regulates blood pressure and cardiovascular function and, if overactivated, can affect body mass and blood pressure. People with high blood pressure may experience weight gain by this system being more activated.
Many people with high blood pressure also gain weight as a side effect of their medication, especially from beta-blockers like Atenolol. The average weight gain experienced is about 2.6 pounds. Typically, most doctors will not prescribe beta-blockers that have a side effect of weight gain unless other treatments are ineffective in lowering your blood pressure.
Most people can achieve weight loss by making healthy lifestyle choices long enough to impact your health significantly. Making these changes can be challenging, and you can easily be derailed from your end goal, which is why the following pointers should help you make the appropriate changes one step at a time.
These tips include:
Consume foods rich in fiber
Fiber-rich foods are low in calories but with adequate vitamins and minerals. These foods include veggies, nuts, seeds, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. They take longer to digest, increasing your daily calorie expenditure. They also make you feel full for longer periods, reducing the temptation to snack. Not only do fiber-rich foods aid in your weight loss, but they are also a healthier way to manage your blood pressure levels.
Limit your portions
Losing weight requires you to consume fewer calories. You can do this by limiting your meal portions to smaller helpings by:
Using smaller plates
Weighing your food and sticking to the recommended serving size
Taking your time while eating, which helps you understand your body better and recognize when you feel full to avoid overeating
Fill your plate with vegetables, which have few calories but give a fuller appearance to your plate
Eat whole grains rather than processed starches
Consuming a lot of processed starch will negatively impact your weight loss goals. However, whole grains are a healthier and highly beneficial option that boosts your body's metabolism. Whole grains include oatmeal, brown rice, and whole-wheat flour.
Keep a food diary
It is very easy to ingest many calories without even noticing, hindering your progress towards weight loss; this is where a food diary is particularly beneficial in losing weight. With a food diary, you can easily keep tabs on what you have consumed and the respective number of calories. It will help you understand what foods are high-calorie and unnecessary in your diet and help you recognize the overall benefits the food you are consuming has on your body.
A food diary doesn't necessarily involve a physical notebook and pen. You can keep your food diary on your phone's notes app or even download a specialist app.
Engage in physical activities
Exercise plays a vital role in weight loss, and you should try to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine. Being physically active does not necessarily involve going to the gym or exercising. It could include walking to the train station or doing more vigorous chores at home like washing windows, raking leaves, gardening, washing the car, etc.
Here are some tips to ease into your exercise routine:
Warm-up before participating in physical activities
Gradually stop your physical activity, allowing your body to ease back to its regular heart rate and blood pressure.
Check in with your doctor before trying out a new activity
Increase the intensity of your workouts gradually to avoid pushing yourself beyond your limits
Incorporate breathing exercises and stretching into your daily routine
Find a support system
Weight loss is a journey, and it's not always easy. Sometimes, you may lack the motivation to get going, so having a great support system is highly beneficial as they can give you encouragement and motivation when you need it. You could reach out to your family and friends or join a weight-loss group where you can find people with similar goals as yours.
While exercise is a viable treatment option for people with high blood pressure, it is crucial to seek your doctor's advice before trying out a new exercise program. Some exercise can cause more harm than good to your overall well-being.
You should not follow more intense exercise programs like HIIT or weight lifting without guidance from a personal trainer and your physician's approval. You should also avoid extreme sports like scuba diving, bungee jumping, and skydiving, among others, as they may not be suitable for you.
Sometimes even a physical activity approved by your doctor may have an unfavorable effect on your health, especially if you are overexerting yourself while performing them. You should stop performing the activity immediately and seek your doctor's advice if you experience signs like nausea, fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, vomiting, or pain during or after exercise.
High-fat foods are the enemy of your blood pressure and weight loss progress. Foods rich in saturated and trans fats further exacerbate your high blood pressure. They also increase your risk of stroke or coronary artery disease because they raise your cholesterol levels. Keeping tabs on your fat intake will help you lower your blood pressure, lose weight, and improve your diet. It is recommended to reduce your saturated fat consumption to 6% of your daily calorie intake and your total fat to 27% of your daily calorie.
Consuming salty foods increases the retention of fluids in your body, which can increase your blood pressure. Limiting your sodium intake to no more than 2,300mg per day is recommended to maintain your blood pressure. However, given that you can find about 2,400mg of sodium in only one teaspoon of table salt, it's easy to exceed these sodium guidelines.
Excessive alcohol intake
Too much alcohol is unhealthy, increases your risk of high blood pressure, and contributes to weight gain due to the high-calorie content of most alcoholic drinks. People with high blood pressure are advised against excessive consumption of alcohol, which is drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week.
Alcohol worsens your condition, interacts with some blood pressure medications, or increases your medication's side effects like headaches, fainting, nausea, vomiting, and difficulty breathing.
Smoking is highly harmful to people with high blood pressure. Smoking narrows your blood vessels, hardens their walls, and increases the blood's clotting ability, further aggravating your high blood pressure. All this combined also increases your risk of suffering a stroke or heart disease. You are encouraged to quit smoking while coping with high blood pressure and prioritize your health.
Some helpful guidelines to help you ease off smoking include:
Try out different hobbies to get your mind off smoking
Consult with your doctor on getting nicotine patches or gum
Avoid triggers that tempt you to smoke
Join a support group to help ease the entire process
Reach for low-calorie food when the urge to smoke overwhelms you
Caffeine intake increases blood pressure in people with hypertension for up to three hours or more.⁴ You should consult with your doctor on whether completely cutting out caffeine will benefit your health or simply limiting your consumption is the better option. It is recommended that people with high blood pressure limit their caffeine intake to about 200mg per day. If you want to cut caffeine out of your diet entirely, it is advised to ease yourself off caffeine as gradually as possible to avoid withdrawal headaches.
Obesity is a common cause of high blood pressure amongst American adults. One of the ways to control your blood pressure without the need for high blood pressure medication is through losing weight. While weight loss can be demanding, it is worth the effort since it significantly impacts your blood pressure.
Losing weight and maintaining weight loss start with making important lifestyle choices to improve your health. You should start eating healthier foods, move more, avoid habits that are detrimental to your well-being, and find yourself a support group that will help you through this journey.
The strategies used to lose weight mentioned above are suitable for people with hypertension, and anyone who wants to lose weight can try them. However, you should take care with high-intensity exercises, seek your doctor's approval, and engage a physical trainer if you can.
Prevalence of obesity and severe obesity among adults: United States, 2017–2018 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Obesity-induced hypertension (2015)
Overweight and hypertension (2000)