Does High Blood Pressure Cause Weight Gain?

High blood pressure is a common and potentially dangerous health condition. Having it increases your risk of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and dementia, and can lead to a stroke or heart attack if left untreated.

Of the many risk factors that influence how likely you are to develop high blood pressure, there’s one that tends to rise above the rest.

Read on to find out how your blood pressure and weight are related and what you can do about it. Plus, learn how the best diet to reduce high blood pressure can also have a positive effect on your weight.

What is the biggest cause of high blood pressure?

Weight gain

Weight gain | Ensuria/Getty Images

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. High blood pressure is a major contributor to this statistic — especially since many people who have it don’t know it. The most common causes of hypertension have to do with lifestyle behaviors.

Usually, it’s a combination of behaviors that lead to the development of high blood pressure. Age, race, and genes play a role too, but much less so if you’re at a normal weight, don’t drink excessively, and exercise regularly.

Putting all the behavioral risks together — diet, physical activity, drinking habits, and more — it’s common to conclude that being overweight or obese is what starts the majority of people on the path to heart trouble. After all, more than two-thirds of the adult U.S. population falls into one of these categories.

These two things — high blood pressure and weight gain — are related. But not necessarily in the way you might think.

Does high blood pressure make you gain weight?

Most research we have to go off of points to weight gain as a potential cause of high blood pressure, not the other way around.

However, certain blood pressure medications prescribed to reduce high blood pressure have been shown to cause weight gain in some people. Some research suggests a certain hormone that raises blood pressure might also contribute to weight gain, but this doesn’t mean high blood pressure makes you gain weight.

We do know for certain that being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. Put simply, the more you weigh, the harder your heart has to work to help you get around. The harder your hard works, the more it pumps — and the more your blood pressure goes up.

Many people living with high blood pressure — whether they know it or not — are also overweight. But weight gain most often comes before high blood pressure, and can happen due to a number of factors such as diet, activity level, genetics, and more.

How to prevent high blood pressure

An overweight woman visits a doctor.

A woman getting her measurements done at the doctor’s office. | belchonock/iStock/Getty Images

Weight loss is the most obvious — though not always the easiest to execute — solution here. Losing even a small portion of your weight can have positive effects on your blood pressure. But there is more than one way, or combination of ways, to make small weight changes happen.

  • Engage in physical activity for at least 150 minutes per week
  • Move more throughout the day (e.g., take the stairs)
  • Start eating fewer processed and fast foods
  • Evaluate your alcohol intake — how many extra calories come from it daily?
  • Eat more low-calorie, heart-healthy foods that promote weight loss.

Though it may seem like the hardest obstacle to overcome, focusing on your diet might be the best first step to take if you want to reduce or prevent high blood pressure.

Not only will it help you lose weight, but you might also see improvements in your energy levels, depending on the foods you eliminate and/or incorporate into your meals and snacks.

The best diet to lower blood pressure

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet was developed specifically to help people reduce and prevent high blood pressure. Following its suggestions can also help you lose weight, lower cholesterol, and improve your overall health.

The DASH diet recommends consuming more:

  • Whole grains — some bread and pasta, but also rice, oats, and quinoa
  • Fruits and vegetables, which are high in fiber to help you eat less
  • Healthy fats, including fish, avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil
  • Some dairy products to increase quality protein intake.

Eating more “real” foods — whole grains; fruits; vegetables; lean meats — can help reduce the number of calories you consume in the average day. It also encourages you to eat less refined sugar, a substance that can trick your brain into thinking it needs you to eat even more sugar (and thus, more calories).

And of course, eating less sodium than the average person consumes in a day helps keep your heart and the rest of your body as healthy as possible.