Research shows that overweight people can reduce blood pressure with weight loss, and it does not need to be dramatic. For every two pounds of weight loss, blood pressure declines by about 1/1 mm Hg.

Your doctor will determine whether or not you're overweight by calculating your body mass index (BMI), a measurement of weight in relation to height. To calculate your BMI, multiply your weight in pounds by 703, and then divide the result by the square of your height in inches.

For example, if you weigh 180 pounds and are 5 feet 8 inches tall, multiply 180 by 703 (180 × 703 = 126,540). Then divide this number by 68 inches squared, or 4,624 (126,540 ÷ 4,624 = 27.4). If your BMI falls between 18.5 and 24.9, you are in the healthy range. But if your BMI is between 25 and 29.9 you are overweight, and if it is 30 or more you are obese.

You can also calculate your BMI online at www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi.

The best way to lose weight is to reduce the number of calories you eat and increase physical activity. While fad diets and over-the-counter dietary supplements may result in quick weight loss, the key to keeping off those pounds is making permanent changes in your eating and exercise habits.

A safe rate of weight loss is 0.5 to 2 pounds a week, which translates to eating 250 to 1,000 fewer calories a day. If you add exercise, this calorie cutback does not need to be as drastic.

Publication Review By: Lawrence Appel, M.D., and Rafael H. Llinas, M.D.

Published: 15 Jul 2013

Last Modified: 15 Jul 2013