Obesity and hypertension, both global epidemics, are independently responsible for a wide array of health complications.

You should read

·         Dangers of being obese

·         Health complications of high blood pressure

It is only recently being appreciated that obesity (mainly the central or the abdominal obesity) predisposes to hypertension in a major way. Statistics prove this association.

Being overweight and obese makes you three times more prone to suffer from high blood pressure. Studies have indicated that even otherwise, obese people have a higher blood pressure than people with a healthy weight.

Risk of hypertension in obesity is high and this relationship between obesity and blood pressure is now attributed to a relatively unknown cause: the increased secretion of insulin, whose levels are high in an obese person.

How does obesity cause hypertension?

Obesity contributes to high arterial blood pressure through the following potential mechanisms:

  • Increased cardiac output due to increased secretion of adrenaline. More the cardiac output more will be the pressure of the blood in the arteries.
  • Increased blood volume due to reabsorption of water and salt by the kidneys. More circulating blood means more pressure in the arteries,
  • Increased arterial resistance due to the arterial narrowing and rigidity caused by atherosclerosis. A narrow arterial lumen means the blood has to force its way through the arteries with more pressure due to increased resistance.
  • Obese people have excess fatty tissue in their body that increases the vascular resistance and therefore, this increases the workload on the heart because it has to pump blood throughout the body.

You must know what is insulin resistance. Insulin, secreted by the pancreas, helps the body cells such as muscle cells and the fat cells to take up glucose from the blood for energy.

They require glucose to generate energy for the various functions the cells perform such as oxidation and metabolism at the cellular level.

Some people develop insulin resistance, which means that the cells refuse to take up the glucose, and the insulin cannot do anything about it. As a result, the blood glucose begins to rise and the pancreas secretes more insulin as a compensatory measure.

You, therefore, have high levels of blood glucose and insulin. Such people develop type 2 diabetes.

Insulin resistance and obesity usually coexist. That is why you see high insulin levels in an obese person because due to insulin resistance, blood sugar refuses to fall and the pancreas in response secretes more insulin as a compensatory measure.

You must know that high insulin levels are a precursor to hypertension and both together often go hand in hand.

Approximately 30 percent of people who are overweight have diabetes, and 85 percent of diabetics are overweight or obese.

The causes of insulin resistance are both genetic and lifestyle factors.

In a nutshell, lifestyle factors include an unhealthy diet, a sedentary life with little physical activity, chronic smoking and excessive drinking of alcohol.

These are the same factors that significantly and independently increase your risk of becoming obese and hypertensive.

Even being overweight, with a BMI between 25 and 29.9, invites the risk of hypertension and such cases are very common. The risk increases with increasing BMI.

Studies have shown that for every gain of 10 lbs in weight, the blood pressure rose by an average of 4.5 mm of Hg. Of all the complications of obesity, hypertension is the most common.

How do high insulin levels cause hypertension?

High insulin levels are often associated with central obesity, cholesterol abnormalities, and/or hypertension. When these conditions occur together, it is called the metabolic syndrome.

Research indicates that insulin resistance and the consequent high levels of insulin may contribute to the development of arterial hypertension.

Insulin stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which makes the heart pump more with greater intensity and the arteries to constrict.

It also causes an imbalance in the serum electrolytes:

  • ·         Imbalance in the sodium and potassium levels increases the blood volume
  • ·         Imbalance in the calcium and magnesium levels constricts the arteries, which drives up the blood pressure.


According to the Framingham Heart Study, excess body weight (including overweight and obesity with BMI more than 25), accounted for about 26 percent of cases of high blood pressure in men and 28 percent in women.

The comparative risks of hypertension in women who gained 10-22 pounds and those that gained over 55 pounds were 1.7 and 5.2, respectively. In other words, the more pounds you add, the higher will be the risk.

However, upon losing weight your risk and the blood pressure readings will show a significant drop.

One study showed that a ten percent drop in the weight of a hypertensive patient produced an average fall of 4.3/3.8 mm Hg in blood pressure.


The first line of therapy should be to achieve weight loss.

  • Stick to a low-salt, low-carb weight loss diet comprising the use of healthy oils, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and more.
  • Increased consumption of white flour, sugar, and refined carbohydrates is the main reason for the current epidemic of insulin resistance. Avoid these foods.
  • You also have to cut back on bread, bakery products such as pastries, white potatoes, white rice, and other high-starch foods.
  • Follow a thirty-minute daily regimen of aerobic exercises to burn the calories.