Shedding excess pounds is one of the best ways to treat high blood pressure

Many lifestyle measures can effectively lower blood pressure in people with hypertension. For people who are overweight, though, the cornerstone of lifestyle modifications should be losing excess weight. Research consistently shows that overweight people who drop pounds also drop millimeters of mercury, the standard measure of blood pressure.

Focusing on weight control is especially important given the enormous and escalating weight problem in the United States. Despite the billions of dollars that Americans spend each year on weight-loss programs, the nation is getting heavier. By current estimates, one in three adults is obese and thus at increased risk of mortality, especially from cardiovascular disease. Yet losing weight needn't be either complicated or expensive.

The bottom line

If you are overweight or obese, weight loss—along with other lifestyle changes—is an excellent way not only to improve overall health but also to specifically lower blood pressure, even if you are already on antihypertensive medication. If you're sedentary or have a chronic disease, consult your doctor before starting any vigorous exercise program.

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

Published: 15 Jul 2013

Last Modified: 29 Aug 2013