Hypertension or High Blood Pressure is One of the Most Serious Health Risks of Obesity

Obesity, overweight and metabolic syndrome all increase risk for developing hypertension, or as it is more commonly known, high blood pressure. Blood pressure is regulated by a large number of systems in the body and most, maybe all of these are altered by obesity. As I have outlined in other locations on this website, obesity causes chronic inflammation and chronic inflammation disturbs and unbalances the normal function of many "feedback" regulatory loops in our physiology. Inflammation is one of the mediators (but not the only mediator) between weight gain, obesity and hypertension. At any rate, regardless of why or how obesity causes hypertension, hypertension itself, once established in a human being, is, untreated, a very dangerous condition.

What Exactly IS Blood Pressure?

Pressure is defined as force distributed over area or, more mathematically, force per unit-area. To give a more concrete example, pressure is the force that water in a graden hose exerts against your thumb or the force that makes air rush out of an aircraft cabin if it develops a hole. Pressure is also required to pump blood through the human body. 

Blood Pressure is Supplied By the Heart

The most important role of blood is carry oxygen and give it to tissues and organs in the body that need it. But once blood has "donated" oxygen to a tissue, it can't do any good again until it picks-up more and to do that, blood has to return to the lungs where oxygen exchange occurs. The only way for blood to return to the lungs is via pressure. So the reason that blood is under pressure is to move it from the lungs where it picks-up oxygen, to the organs where it gives-up oxygen and then back to the lungs again. And the source of this pressure is the heart that "beats" by squeezing-down on itself like a clenched fist, and, like a clenched fist under water, the heart "squirts" blood out of itself, into the biggest artery in the body (called the aorta) and onto the tissues of the body. And like a locomotive that has to push a thousand rail cars, the heart has to push hard enough to move all the blood, that which is newly ejected, and that which is already oxyegen depleteted, all of it, full circle around and around again throught the body. That is what blood pressure is all about.

Systolic Blood Pressure: The Top Number

A heart beats in a rhythmic cycle. Again, imagine squeezing a bellows (or more appropriate to healthcare, imagine squeezing the bulb on a manual blood pressure cuff). To force air out you have to contract your fist, to let it back in, you need to relax. Same thing with the heart. The moment of maximum 'squeeze' of the heart is the moment when the blood pressure throughout the body rises to its highest point. This highest point, this moment of maximum pressure of the heart and the blood is called "systolic blood pressure".

Diastolic Blood Pressure: The Bottom Number

Conversely, when the heart is most relaxed (as you would relax a fist wrapped around a blood pressure-cuff-bulb), that moment of maximum relaxation is called the diastolic blood pressure. This is the very lowest pressure the blood reaches during a heart beat cycle.

Systolic Hypertension Increases Risk for Sudden Stroke and Other Acute (sudden) Events

Having systolic hypertension (the upper number is too high) puts you at risk for sudden dramatic and terrible health problems like stroke or the rupture of a blood vessel in a major organ (other than the brain).

Diastolic Hypertension Increases Risk for Chronic (Long-Term) Illness Like Heart Disease, Kidney Disease and Blindness

As terrifying as systolic hypertension can be, diastolic hypertension isn't much better. It's just slower. But more people die from complications of diastolic hypertension than do from systolic hypertension. In other words, diastolic high blood pressure is the most deadly kind.

Weight Loss Reduces Both Systolic and Diastolic Blood Pressure

Regardless of the risks of hypertension, those risks all respond to and are all reduced by weight loss. All of them.

Blood Pressure Medications Work Very Well

Hypertension is among the most treatable of all medical problems and nearly everybody will respond to one or a combination of several of the newer classes of anti-hypertensive medications. There is no reason for anyone to suffer the terrible consequences of untreated hypertension.

Some Weight Loss Medications May Slightly Increase Blood Pressure but Weight Loss Lowers Blood Pressure

Most of the classic phentermine-type appetite suppressants can, when they are first used by a patient, slightly increase blood pressure and this is one of the reasons why such medications must be prescribed with care. However, this initial rise in blood pressure can usually be easily managed medically. And on the "back-end", weight loss often produces  significant reductions in blood pressure.