High blood pressure and Obesity

What is high blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the pressure on your arteries as your blood is pumped around your body1. Although your blood pressure will vary depending on what you’re doing, if it’s consistently high, you may be told you have high blood pressure or hypertension.

Blood pressure is measured by two numbers, such as 120/80. The larger number is the systolic blood pressure, which is the pressure as your heart pumps blood out.

The lower number is the pressure as your heart relaxes. This is called diastolic blood pressure.

Hypertension is diagnosed when you receive a blood pressure reading on two separate days that shows a systolic reading of equal or over 140/mmHg and/or a diastolic reading of equal or over ≥90 mmHg2.

Over one in five Australians have measured a high blood pressure reading3.

Does being overweight or obese increase blood pressure?

Being overweight or obese is a major risk factor in developing hypertension or high blood pressure.

One study found that obesity may be responsible for 78% of hypertension in men and for 65% of hypertension in women4.

The hormone leptin regulates the amount of fat stored in the body. When a person gains weight, leptin rises, which increases blood pressure5.

What are the risk factors of high blood pressure?

There are many ways to lower the risk of developing high blood pressure. Risk factors for high blood pressure include eating an unhealthy diet high in salt, not getting enough exercise, smoking, drinking too much alcohol and being overweight or obese2.

There are also blood pressure risk factors that are out of your control. Hypertension can run in families and Indigenous adults are also more likely to have high blood pressure than non-indigenous adults6. Uncontrolled high blood pressure is more common in the lowest socioeconomic areas6.

What are the complications of high blood pressure?

High blood pressure puts you at increased risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke. The increased pressure on the heart can lead to chest pain, a heart attack, heart failure, and even sudden death2.

Hypertension can also put pressure on your kidneys, leading to kidney failure2.

How can you manage high blood pressure?

There are many things you can do to prevent high blood pressure or help lower it if you have it.

It’s important to eat a healthy diet that is low in salt, saturated fats and processed foods and high in fresh fruits and vegetables. You could become more physically active and reduce your consumption of alcohol and tobacco.

As obesity and high blood pressure are closely related, losing weight can be directly linked to decreasing blood pressure7.

It’s important to look after your other comorbidities, such as diabetes and mental health, as they can all contribute to higher blood pressure.

There are also medications to help lower blood pressure.

Infertility and Obesity
1 Heart Foundation Blood pressure and your heart Available from https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/Heart-health-education/Blood-pressure-and-your-heart

2 World Health Organisation Hypertension Fact Sheet, 25 August 2021 Available at https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hypertension. Accessed December 2021.

3 ABS 2019. National Health Survey, 2017–18. ABS cat. no. 4324.0.55.001. https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/health-conditions-and-risks/national-health-survey-first-results/latest-release

4 Aronow WS. Association of obesity with hypertension. Ann Transl Med. 2017;5(17):350. doi:10.21037/atm.2017.06.69 https://atm.amegroups.com/article/view/15832/html

5 Simonds S, Pryor J, Ravussin E et al Leptin Mediates the Increase in Blood Pressure Associated with Obesity, Cell 2014; 159(6):1404-1416 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4259491/

6 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2021). Heart, stroke and vascular disease—Australian facts.Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/heart-stroke-vascular-diseases/hsvd-facts Accessed December 2021.

7 Reisin E, Frohlich ED. Effects of weight reduction on arterial pressure. J Chronic Dis. 1982;35(12):887-891. doi:10.1016/0021-9681(82)90119-9 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0021968182901199