Researchers have long been studying the link between obesity and hypertension. A new study, the Dallas Heart Study, indicates that there may be a major link between abdominal fat – fat near the midsection – and development of high blood pressure.
Alvin Chandra, MD, of the University of Texas Southwest Medical Centre, noted the link: “Obesity has been linked to the development of hypertension, but whether total adiposity or site-specific fat accumulation underpins this relationship is unclear.”
The researchers involved in the Dallas Heart Study monitored 903 patients without hypertension with a median age of 40. The sample was 57% female. Observation of the group occurred over the course of seven years, and participants took part in an imaging test to measure adiposity.
While high levels of adipose tissue were closely linked with hypertension across the study, visceral adiposity was more closely correlated with the chance of high blood pressure developing in test participants.
In simple terms, the data indicates that fat centred on the waist and midsection has a more significant effect on blood pressure than fat that is evenly distributed across the body. Despite this, the conclusiveness of the study is not yet confirmed.
Researchers noted: “Increased visceral adiposity, but not total or subcutaneous adiposity, was robustly associated with incident hypertension. Additional studies will be needed to elucidate the mechanisms behind this association.”
Despite the potentially higher risk of hypertension associated with abdominal fat, even obese people without significant amounts of fat around their midsection and organs face an elevated risk of developing high blood pressure.
Because of this, it’s important to prevent high blood pressure from developing by following a healthy diet and lifestyle centred around low-fat, low-sodium dieting and frequent exercise.
Young children who are obese have a six times risk factor for developing high blood pressure, specialist doctors believe. High blood pressure can lead to significant and potentially deadly health complications in adulthood, including heart disease.
The most at-risk group is obese girls, who are 5.9 times as likely to have high blood pressure in adulthood compared to their peers at a healthier weight. Boys risk four times the chance of developing high blood pressure if they are obese.
Data used to create the recent specialist warnings was sourced from a new German study that studied teenagers and young children with obesity who developed high blood pressure in adulthood.
Doctors claim that the high likelihood of obese people developing unhealthy blood pressure is closely linked to eating habits formed in childhood. UK-based GPs have warned that easily accessible junk food puts the current generation at risk.
The family Heart Study, which was carried out in Nuremberg, Germany, shows that obesity significantly increases the risk of developing blood pressure, even in young children. 18.6% of obese children involved in the study had high blood pressure.
This worrying statistic compares to a slightly lower 10.4% of overweight boys and just 5.7% of boys with a healthy weight. An astonishing 24.4% of all obese girls that took part in the study were found to have hypertension, compared to 5% of girls at normal weights.
Doctors have stressed the importance of developing healthy eating habits during childhood and avoiding high-fat, high-sugar foods that can contribute to serious medical conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease.
Professor Schwandt, one of the researchers involved in the study, said: “Our study clearly shows that the fatter young people are, the greater their risk of prehypertension hypertension. Any weight loss they can achieve will help reduce their risk.”