High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major cause of heart disease, stroke, and death across the United States. Though weight gain and high blood pressure are not always related, it’s not uncommon for someone with hypertension to also be overweight.
But does being overweight really cause high blood pressure? And how likely is it that you can still develop high blood pressure if you’re not overweight?
A doctor checks a patient’s blood pressure. | iStock.com/AndreyPopov
Though a doctor can usually diagnose high blood pressure after a series of visits and blood pressure readings, it’s not always possible to determine one “cause.” While the flu is caused by a virus, for example, high blood pressure could develop because of many factors all acting together simultaneously.
However, experts can identify your risk of developing hypertension based on a list of possible contributing factors — and can use those same factors to recommend lifestyle changes that can help you regulate your blood pressure.
People who are most likely to develop high blood pressure at some point in their lifetime are those who:
Unfortunately, many of these factors can sometimes be related — especially when it comes to weight. An unhealthy diet and physical inactivity both separately increase high blood pressure risk, but can also contribute to weight gain, which also elevates your risk.
There are several reasons being overweight can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure.
One of the most dangerous is the effect of weight gain on your heart and circulatory system as a whole. Carrying more weight forces your heart to work harder to pump blood through your body, increasing your blood pressure as well as your risk of heart disease.
Weight gain also increases your risk of developing both Type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea, two conditions that in turn increase your chances of developing high blood pressure.
It’s important to remember, though, that being overweight is not the only factor that makes you more likelyy to develop hypertension.
Weight scale | Ensuria/Getty Images
Being overweight or obese significantly increases your chances of developing high blood pressure. However, you could be at a normal weight and still develop hypertension.
You can’t judge whether or not you’ll develop a certain health condition solely based on how much you weigh. Weight says a lot about a person’s overall health and can predict future outcomes, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
How much you weigh is only one possible contributing factor that could increase your chances of developing high blood pressure. For some people, it might be the most significant one.
You might follow an unhealthy diet, avoid exercise, drink alcohol excessively, and still technically fall into a healthy weight category. But you’re actually more likely to develop hypertension than someone who eats healthy, exercises, doesn’t drink, and is classified as overweight.
When assessing your high blood pressure risk, take into account the number of factors that could increase your risk. Don’t just look at a few and say, “That doesn’t apply to me.” Look at the whole picture, not just the individual pieces.
Of course, if you do have high blood pressure and your doctor makes recommendations for daily habits you can adapt, tackle one at a time so it’s more manageable in the beginning. You can’t wake up never having jogged a mile and go run a marathon. Baby steps.
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