How to lose weight and lower your blood pressure
Losing extra weight is great for your heart and your overall health. If you are overweight, like around 70% of the adults in the United States, you are at a higher risk of increased blood pressure. According to the Framingham Heart Study, excess body weight accounted for about 26% of cases of hypertension in men and 28% in women. If you are carrying your excess weight around your abdomen, you are at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, and more.
Use a blood pressure monitor to see what your numbers are and measure regularly at home. Hopefully, as the pounds come off, your measurements will improve as well.
Does losing weight feel overwhelming?
The good news is that if you are overweight, even minor weight loss can improve your heart function, vascular health, and metabolism. Losing as little as 5-10% of your body weight can help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol and could reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes.
If you want to assess your weight, try this BMI calculator from the CDC. You can also go scale-free. Measure the circumference around your waist. If you’re over 40 inches for men or 34 for women, it’s time to try to shed a bit. Consult with your doctor about your target healthy waist circumference.
Here are some tried and true strategies for helping you lower your blood pressure and reach your goal weight.
Say yes to these foods
Potassium. Potassium is important for good health. It helps lessen the effect of sodium (salt) in your body and can help lower blood pressure. The average adult should aim to eat 4,700 mg of potassium per day, but you should check with your doctor how much potassium is good for you. Foods rich in potassium include white beans, potatoes, green vegetables, bananas, dried apricots, salmon, and oranges.
Fiber. Consuming fiber helps you lose or maintain weight by promoting a feeling of fullness, reducing insulin, and ensuring bowel regularity. Soluble fiber from oats, beans, lentils, and apples helps balance blood sugar and decreases cholesterol. Insoluble fiber from whole wheat, brown rice, legumes, and other fruits and vegetables promotes bowel regularity. Aim to consume 35 or more grams of fiber per day.
Fruit. Research shows that fruit is a smart choice. The EPIC Heart study found that participants who consumed 8 or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day were 22% less likely to die of heart disease than those who ate 3 or fewer servings. A 2013 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consumption of blueberries and apples reduced the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Protein. Eating more protein can help you lose weight and belly fat by altering your weight-regulating hormones, reducing your appetite, and boosting your metabolism.
High-quality protein foods include:
- Lean red meat
- Non-fatty cuts of pork
- Low-fat dairy
- Vegetarian meat substitutes
Water-rich foods. Eating foods with high water content can help you lose weight. Water-rich foods are low in calories but can keep you feeling full longer. In many cases, water-rich foods are also high in nutrition. Some of the highest water foods are:
- Bell peppers
Chocolate. Here’s some good news for chocolate lovers: Eating one to two squares of dark chocolate a day (60-70% cacao) may help to lower your blood pressure! It’s thought that the flavonoids present in dark chocolate help dilate your blood vessels causing lower blood pressure.
Leave these foods on the shelf
Processed food. Although convenient to prepare, processed foods are packed with salt and sugar. Cutting down (or cutting out) processed foods may help lower your blood pressure. Always read the food label to see how much sodium and sugar is listed.
Whole foods are better for you than processed and packaged foods. They offer nutrients like fiber and antioxidants that boost metabolism. For healthier weight management, 85-90% of the foods you eat should come from whole sources like animal protein, seafood, fruits and vegetables, beans, and whole grains. Try to eat only one processed or packaged food per day to support your weight loss goals.
Refined carbs. Eat fewer refined carbohydrates to promote weight loss. The insulin spike you get after eating refined carbs promotes weight gain and increased fat storage. Insulin is a hormone that encourages the body to store fat. If insulin levels are chronically high, it makes it difficult to lose weight. To reverse insulin resistance, avoid refined carbs like bread, pasta, pastries, sodas, and sports drinks.
Sugary drinks. Soda, fruit juices and sports drinks, as well as other sugary beverages, offer no nutritional value but are high in calories. You can see the calorie count and sugar content of some popular drinks here.
They also cause a sharp spike in blood sugar and insulin, which impact your body’s ability to regulate weight. Instead, stay hydrated with healthy fluids like water, herbal teas, or zero-calorie flavor enhancers on occasion.
Physical activity makes your heart and muscles stronger. If your heart doesn’t have to work so hard to pump blood, the force on your arteries decreases, lowering your blood pressure.
Aerobic or cardio exercise burns calories. Not only does aerobic exercise promote weight loss, but it also improves cardiovascular health and mental and emotional well-being. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week. Popular aerobic exercises include brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, and dancing.
Finding activities you enjoy will make the thought of exercise much more fun! Aim for 30 minutes a day on most days of the week. Can’t stand the gym? No problem. Go dancing, do yoga, hiking, gardening – anything that gets your heart rate up. Pick things you’ll want to do often and make it your healthy habit.
You don’t need an expensive gym membership to get your blood pressure down. Consider these exercises to get your recommended 150 minutes moderate exercise per week:
- 10 minutes of brisk walking 3 times a day
- 30 minutes of biking or stationary cycling
- Hiking on an incline
- 10 minutes an hour of under desk cycling
Don’t underestimate the value of good sleep
Regularly getting 7-9 hours of high-quality sleep helps maintain healthy weight, makes losing weight easier and can also increase your motivation to exercise. Research shows that insufficient sleep affects your metabolism. Low-quality sleep affects appetite-related hormones and can make you feel hungrier and increase your cravings for high-calorie and high-carbohydrate foods.
A good sleep pattern may help reduce hypertension. Studies have shown that getting less than 7 hours a night on a regular basis may increase the chance of hypertension. Regularly getting less than 5 hours a night is linked to a significant risk of long-term hypertension.
You can do it!
Sometimes you feel like you’re doing everything right, but the numbers on the scale aren’t budging.
If you’re not losing the weight you’d like, take another look at your diet. Are you getting too many calories hidden in junk food, sugary beverages, and alcohol? Should you cut more carbohydrates? Are you drinking enough water and getting enough quality sleep and regular exercise? Speak with a dietitian to identify why your plan isn’t working and find solutions.
Keeping your weight and blood pressure down isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.
The articles provided on this website are for informational purposes only. In addition, it is written for a generic audience and not a specific case; therefore, this information should not be used for diagnostic or medical treatment. This site does not attempt to replace the patient-physician relationship and fully recommends the reader to seek out the best care from his/her physician and/or diabetes educator.