How Obesity Increases Blood Pressure

Obese woman having blood pressure taken by doctor

As you probably already know, obesity is a leading cause of hypertension or high blood pressure. Hypertension, along with several other weight-related concerns, make up metabolic syndrome, a significant risk factor for longer-term heart disease and congestive heart failure. While this is no secret, the medical community has not been all that great about educating patients on how obesity can cause high blood pressure. In this article, we will discuss just that.

Why High Blood Pressure Occurs

There are several reasons why blood pressure can occur. One is a result of the narrowing of the arteries, known as atherosclerosis. Arterial narrowing is something that occurs naturally later in life. However, it can be hastened by poor diet, exercise, and lifestyle factors. For example, when we eat highly saturated and processed foods, excess fat can circulate in the bloodstream. These fatty cells start accumulating on the artery’s walls, forming a partial blockage. Early on, atherosclerosis has few symptoms, but as the occlusion worsens, patients begin to feel symptoms in the areas of the body fed by those arteries, as well as increased blood pressure. For example, if the peripheral arteries are starting to occlude. In that case, patients may experience peripheral artery disease (PAD), including symptoms like loss of hair in the extremities, cold skin to the touch, pain when exercising, and more. If the blockage affects the coronary arteries, the first symptom is often angina or chest pain, which can worsen without treatment until the patient ultimately experiences a heart attack.

Another potential cause of blood pressure that you might not think would make a difference is hydration. Blood is approximately 60% water, with the balance being a brackish salty substance made of platelets and red blood cells. If you’re dehydrated, your blood is also affected and becomes more viscous. It stands to reason that thick blood is more difficult to push through the body, and your heart needs to pump harder to get the same amount of blood to the critical areas that need it. Hydration is blood thinning, which can improve your cardiovascular health dramatically while also giving you mental and physical energy.

Lastly, it is important to understand that fat cells require blood flow like any other body tissue. Fat cells need additional blood and more blood vessels as they grow. This vascularization puts extra pressure on the heart to push more blood around the body. Combined with arteries occluded by cholesterol deposits, the result can be significantly heightened blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias, long-term heart failure, and a severe cardiovascular event like a heart attack.

The Bottom Line

When you hear us discuss excess weight and its cardiovascular risk factors, you will know exactly why. With that knowledge, we hope you can prioritize improving your diet and exercise regimen while eliminating poor lifestyle choices like smoking and drinking excessively. These lifestyle changes will improve your blood flow and help you feel better overall.

We encourage you to contact us if you are experiencing any cardiovascular issues, and of course, if you believe you’re having an emergency, don’t delay calling 911 or visiting your nearest emergency room.