In so many ways, the pandemic has resulted in so much more for us. Higher inflation, gas prices, anxiety and more, including obesity and high blood pressure.
In 2020, studies show that blood pressure control worsened in both men and women, particularly women and older adults. Causes were likely related to pandemic-related changes in diet, exercise, drinking, medication adherence, stress and sleep.
In addition, increased stress, which prompts the body to store more fat, increases obesity. A survey by the American Psychological Association showed 42% of adults experienced an average weight gain of 29 pounds!
As a result, data from the Centers for Disease Control showed 16 states now have obesity rates of 35% or higher. In 2011, not a single state had reached that rate. Four states were added to that list in only a year.
As a result, these increases have accelerated a growing health crisis. According to the American Heart Association, nearly half of Americans already have high blood pressure. About 70% of adults in the United States are overweight.
The risks of obesity and high blood pressure
Obesity and high blood pressure remain disturbingly high and intimately connected.
Being obese increases the risk of high blood pressure, which increases the risk for heart disease, stroke and chronic kidney disease. These are the three leading causes of death in the United States. Obesity is measured by body mass index (BMI). BMI is determined by weight and height. Normal BMI is 20-25, overweight is 25-29.9 and obesity is greater than 30.
In addition to BMI, fat distribution is also related to high blood pressure. Abdominal obesity, a waist measurement more than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women, is the greatest influence on blood pressure.
An increase in fatty tissues increases vascular resistance. As a result, the heart must work harder to pump blood, straining arteries. Arteries resist this flow of blood, causing blood pressure to rise.
High blood pressure also limits blood flow in the kidney’s tiny blood vessels. This makes it harder to filter blood to remove waste and fluids. As a result, the heart works even harder.
The benefit of losing weight
The good news is that losing weight is one of the most effective lifestyle changes for controlling blood pressure! A healthy diet and increased physical activity help reduce blood pressure for people who are overweight and obese. Losing even a little weight can improve heart and vascular health, boost heart function, lower blood pressure and improve metabolism. Every 20 pounds lost can drop systolic pressure (the top number in blood pressure reading) 5 to 20 points.
For some people, however, losing weight and keeping it off is a challenge, with studies showing that lifestyle changes result in limited long-term weight loss and sustained blood pressure reduction. The human body has evolved to resist weight loss, making it more difficult.
Weight-loss medications and weight-loss or bariatric/metabolic surgery show promise for reducing the long-term effects of high blood pressure in people who are overweight or have obesity, according to an American Heart Association scientific statement. Research shows that high blood pressure resolved in 63% of people who had metabolic surgery, and less use of blood pressure-lowering medicines were noted after surgery.
While everyone wants to get past the pandemic and get back to “normal,” it is obvious that the pandemic will continue to have health impacts across the country, particularly related to uncontrolled hypertension.
For your long-term health, have your blood pressure checked regularly and talk to your doctor about steps to control hypertension. To learn more about our weight loss solutions, sign up here for a free online seminar.