For Blood Pressure, Can You Be Fit But Fat?

(Reuters Health) – If you’re trying to bring your blood pressure to healthy levels, a new study suggests that how much you weigh is more important than how fit you are.

As expected, the study found that overweight or obese people were more likely to have a high systolic blood pressure – the top number in a blood pressure reading. But for those with a high body mass index (BMI) – a measure of weight versus height — how in shape they were only had a small impact on their blood pressure.

The results suggest that people who are trying to decrease their risk for high blood pressure should focus on losing weight however they can most effectively do that, the authors say, and that increasing physical fitness should be a secondary goal.

“Obesity is such a strong predictor of blood pressure or hypertension risk that having a normal body weight is really what’s going to drive your blood pressure” rather than your fitness level, Dr. Susan Lakoski, a cardiologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and one of the study’s authors, told Reuters Health.

At least in terms of lowering your risk for high blood pressure, she said, “it’s not realistic to be fit and fat.”

One in three American adults has high blood pressure – above 140/90 – including more than half of those over 55. Having high blood pressure puts a person at greater risk for stroke, heart attack, and kidney disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that high blood pressure will cost the U.S. more than $75 billion in 2010 – from hospital stays and doctors’ appointments, drugs, and lost time at work. Doctors often recommend medication and lifestyle changes, including exercise, for patients with high blood pressure.

In the study, published in the American Heart Journal, Lakoski and her colleagues analyzed data from approximately 35,000 patients, mostly white men, collected over the last 20 years at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, Texas. When patients came into the clinic, doctors measured their body composition, blood pressure, and fitness levels.


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