Why Does Being Overweight Cause High Blood Pressure?

Millions of Americans live with high blood pressure. Many of them have no idea they have it. Unfortunately, undiagnosed and uncontrolled hypertension is both common and extremely dangerous. It can lead to a heart attack or stroke, and could even become fatal.

Much of the advice you may have come across or heard from your health care provider about preventing and reducing hypertension probably involved weight loss or weight control. What’s up with that? What does your weight have to do with your blood pressure anyway?

How are weight and high blood pressure really related? Why are so many people with high blood pressure told to lose weight — and why does it matter? Plus, learn the most common safe and healthy tips for losing weight if you’ve been diagnosed with hypertension.

What causes high blood pressure?

High blood pressure

High blood pressure | iStock.com/AndreyPopov

The most common risk factors that could lead to the development of high blood pressure include:

  • Age (50 and over)
  • A family history of high blood pressure
  • Live with high cholesterol
  • Have Type 2 diabetes
  • Chronic stress
  • Physical inactivity
  • Drug and/or alcohol use
  • Weight (overweight or obesity)
  • Following an unhealthy diet.

In some cases, high blood pressure can result from a handful of diseases and might actually be curable. But for most people, hypertension is a lifelong condition that must be managed with medication and/or lifestyle changes. Weight plays a major role in this management, and losing weight can actually make a huge difference.

Why does being overweight cause high blood pressure?

Your heart circulates blood throughout your body, providing oxygen to the places it’s needed most. The harder it has to work, the more force it must use to pump blood.

Unfortunately, carrying extra weight puts extra pressure on the heart and increases this force, which is why it’s common for people who are overweight or obese to develop high blood pressure.

Overweight and obesity also increase your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, a condition that develops when the body’s cells become resistant to the hormone insulin. Uncontrolled blood sugar increases your risk of developing high blood pressure.

Studies have shown that losing weight reduces high blood pressure and decreases your risk of heart disease and related health conditions.

How to lose weight if you have high blood pressure

Exercise and high blood pressure

Exercise and high blood pressure | iStock.com/funduck

Most experts agree that a healthy diet and regular exercise, if done right, can help most people lose weight and reduce high blood pressure.

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet recommends eliminating processed, high-sugar, high-sodium foods from the diet and replacing them with fruits and vegetables, quality plant and animal proteins, and whole grains.

If your health care provider gives the OK, regular physical activity is also a great way to lose weight and add to the positive health effects of small dietary changes. Exercising strengthens the heart so it doesn’t have to work so hard to do its job, often resulting in a more stable blood pressure.

Sometimes, blood pressure medications can lead to unwanted weight gain. If you believe a medication you’re taking to help control your blood pressure is making it more difficult for you to lose weight, talk with your doctor about possible alternatives.