There is a slew of lifestyle habits that a person should adhere to when it comes to controlling their blood pressure, such as eating well, exercising, reducing stress, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking. Together, all these lifestyle habits can go a long way in controlling your blood pressure, but if you just had to pick one to stick with, which one would give you the best results?
Researchers examined each lifestyle habit and how it impacts blood pressure and uncovered the single behavior that affects blood pressure. Their results indicated that losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight is the biggest influencing factor on blood pressure.
Study lead author John Booth III explained, “Our results indicate by maintaining a healthy body weight into middle age, you can help preserve low blood pressure. There have been increases in blood pressure at younger ages, which are linked to heart disease and stroke. We evaluated the long-term impact of maintaining healthy behaviors on [high blood pressure].”
Other factors that the researchers looked at were not smoking, drinking less than seven alcoholic beverages for women and less than 14 for men, eating a healthy diet, exercising for a minimal of 150 minutes a week, and maintaining a healthy weight.
The study included over 4,700 volunteers and were followed for 25 years.
The researchers found that the volunteers who maintained a healthy weight were 41 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure by middle age. Volunteers who maintained at least four healthy behaviors had a 27 percent lower risk of high blood pressure.
Diet and exercise were not specifically linked to lower blood pressure, but not smoking and reducing intake of alcohol seemed to have an effect on a person’s risk of developing high blood pressure by middle age.
The question now is: if maintaining a healthy weight is the biggest factor around healthy blood pressure, do the other behaviors not need to be followed? The answer is no, they should still be followed. Diet and exercise are large factors on weight management, so even if they don’t directly translate to lower blood pressure, they aid in weight loss and weight maintenance.
So, how does weight gain contribute to high blood pressure? Dr. Howard Selinger is chair of family medicine and he explained, “When you gain weight, your heart has to work harder because the weight has a compressive effect on the blood vessels. Over decades, that can produce cardiac problems. The vascular bed —the blood vessels—stiffens as we get older.”
Therefore, you should still maintain exercising and eating well as part of your blood pressure treatment as it can help you lose weight and prevent weight gain, which can negatively impact your blood pressure.