The statement above signals a very disturbing trend in the overall health of American children, and also sparks concern for their futures. Studies suggest that obese children are very likely to take this condition with them into adulthood. This will then expose them to disease risks which have been clearly connected with being severely overweight, such as Type-2 Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, various Cancers and Hypertension.
It is now generally accepted that the reason for this disconcerting increase in childhood (and adult) obesity can be directly linked to lifestyle which includes poor nutrition and diet choices, with an emphasis on excessive eating of the wrong types of foods – processed/junk foods being one of the main culprits – and a lack of exercise and activity in general.
Obesity is associated with Hypertension – and not only in Adults:
A study conducted by researchers funded by Spain’s Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness and headed by N. Martin-Espinoza which was published in January 2017 shows a definite connection between weight and blood pressure in Spanish school children, aged as young as 4-6 years old. The results found that not only was there a high incidence of hypertension in the children studied, but that :
“Moreover, high levels of adiposity (the medical term for obesity) are associated with high blood pressure in early childhood, which support that it could be related to cardiovascular risk later in life.”
Out of the 1,604 schoolchildren aged 4-to-6 years belonging to 21 schools from the provinces of Ciudad Real and Cuenca, Spain it was found that indicators of obesity, such as BMI ( Body Mass Index) and WM (waist circumference) were clearly associated with blood pressure levels, with the children who measured higher in the obesity categories also presenting with significantly higher blood pressure levels.
When this information is then combined with a study from the States in which findings suggested that obese children have four times the likelihood of developing hypertension as adults, compared to children of normal weight, then the urgent need to intervene early with obesity in children becomes very obvious.
What’s Fuelling the Soaring Rates of Obesity?
Well, I use the word fuelling with good reason because that is at the very heart of the matter…
Namely the type of fuel we are using to feed our bodies.
As I alluded to earlier we only have to look at the typical American (Western) diet to see what’s going on. The excessive consumption of convenience foods, such as fast food, processed foods and junk foods which are very high in starchy carbohydrates, refined sugar – or some sugar substitute – and refined salts have started to take their toll on the health of society.
And then we have to consider portion size which in most fast food outlets is geared towards larger and larger sizes in order to sell as much of the product as possible.
Let’s not forget also that the onslaught continues with the enduring love affair with drinks which are basically no better than concentrated sugar water, such as super-sized sodas, not to mention fruit juices which are fruit in name yet mainly sugar in content!
The other half of the equation is the absence of movement and regular activity which has pervaded most people’s lives these days. The human body is built to be active and to move, yet so many of our jobs nowadays involve sitting at desks in front of a computer for countless hours.
Then when we get home at night, we have another large screen for entertainment to keep us sitting on the couch most of the evening as well!
This lack of regular activity/exercise in itself is not only bad for your blood pressure, but it also plays a role in weight gain. So a double whammy!!
In my post Is Sitting All Day Bad for Health and Blood Pressure I look into this aspect in greater detail:
Will Losing Weight Help Blood Pressure?
Returning now to the original question of today’s article:
Given that increased weight leads to a greater risk of developing hypertension, then conversely, as one might expect, losing weight can indeed be beneficial for blood pressure. In fact it has been suggested that a 10 lb reduction, which is manageable for most people who are obese, will make a tangible difference to their blood pressure readings…
Why does losing weight lower blood pressure?
The answer is simply that by losing weight, the peripheral resistance of the blood vessels is reduced which means that the heart requires less force to pump blood around the body, and hence less pressure is exerted against artery walls.
Another interesting fact is that fat tissue requires a large blood supply, so by diminishing the size of fat tissue deposits in the body, other tissues can receive the necessary nutrients for growth and cell rejuvenation instead.
Losing weight through increased exercise and careful diet planning will not only help your blood pressure, but also has the added bonus of strengthening your cardiovascular conditioning and body metabolism as a whole.
Weight-loss diets are ten a penny and it seems that new ones are coming out all the time. This is not necessarily a good thing because it seems that the emphasis on the most recent trendy diets by the media and TV talk shows only serves to cloud the issue as to what is the best diet to lose weight.
The media seems to be mesmerized by radical fad diets and the effects of so-called miracle supplements and vitamins to control weight gain, and skilful marketing only serves to reinforce this coverage.
However there is one diet which has proven its worth. It was originally designed specifically to help people with pre- or hypertension proper, but which produced after a number of years a beneficial side effect which nobody had predicted at the time of its inception.
The DASH Diet – Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension
I have examined the DASH DIET (Click HERE) in previous posts but mainly from the perspective of how the Dash Diet meal plan can help reduce blood pressure.
- The American Heart Association (AHA)
- The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
- US guidelines for treatment of high blood pressure
- The Mayo Clinic
And its success has continued as the DASH Diet was ranked in early 2018 and tied (with the Mediterranean Diet) as the best diet for 8th year in a row by US News & World Report. And this ranking also encompassed – one of the best diets for diabetes, #1 diet for heart health, and healthy eating (tied again with the Mediterranean Diet).
But the exciting discovery from people who turned to the DASH Diet to help control their blood pressure was the coincidental outcome that followers who stayed on the diet were also able to shed a significant amount of weight…
Why is this?
Simply put, due to the emphasis on real foods, and especially heavy reliance on fruits and vegetables, when this is balanced with the right amount of protein, DASH becomes an effective weight loss diet.
Check out this video link from Today.com to see one person’s success story using the DASH Diet for weight loss versus another well known diet – Nutrisystem.
Notice the lady on the Nutrisystem diet makes reference to the large number of carbs in her food plan, and the fact she had to add salads – the fresh vegetable component which the DASH diet incorporates in such generous amounts. Little wonder the lady on the DASH Diet faired much better in terms of losing weight after 30 days on the diet!
It is clear from the literature that with obesity on the rise, and the fact that childhood obesity typically leads to overweight adults, there is an urgency in the need to address the increasing toll this is causing on the health of adults and children alike. Some have even coined the epidemic of obesity as “astronomical” in its effects on health, and on health care costs associated with treating the consequential diseases.
Ideally preventative intervention needs to start at an early age. And as many of us know only too well – it’s so much easier not to put on weight with the proper eating habits than it is to lose the weight afterwardst!!
As we have seen there is a confirmed connection between obesity and the risk of developing high blood pressure. Therefore, it makes sense that one way to help manage blood pressure levels is to watch your weight, and ideally if you need to, lose some pounds.
A combination of the right diet, such as the DASH Diet and getting regular activity may go a very long way in helping to achieve this goal. Of course this requires lifestyle adjustments, but when good health is the endgame, then surely these types of sacrifices are worthwhile! 🙂
Please feel free to pitch in with your thoughts in the comments section below. I wish you healthy eating!!