For the millions of North Americans who are overweight, new research provides one more reason to resolve to shed a few pounds in the New Year. Even modest weight loss can lead to long-term reduction in blood pressure, study findings show. The study from the Kaiser Permanente Centre for Health Research in Portland, Oregon included nearly 1,200 overweight men and women aged 30 to 54 who had blood pressure in the upper range of normal, meaning that they were at risk of developing high blood pressure, or hypertension (140/90 or greater). The participants had systolic blood pressure (the first number in a blood pressure reading) that was lower than 140 and diastolic blood pressure (the second number) ranging from 83 to 89.
Half of the participants were assigned to a 3-year weight-loss program that included group and individual counselling. The other half was assigned to a "control" group that received normal medical care. Weight and blood pressure were measured every 6 months.
Overall, participants in the weight-loss group shed pounds, while those in the control group gained weight. At 6, 18 and 36 months after the study began, blood pressure was significantly lower in the weight-loss group than in the control group. The researchers also report that people in the weight-loss group were less likely to develop high blood pressure.
But the drop in high blood pressure disappeared when participants regained the weight they had lost. In people who lost weight only to regain it, blood pressure readings crept back up to nearly the same level as they had been before they lost weight.
The researchers feel that their results leave no doubt that weight reduction is a worthwhile objective for people whose body weight is higher than ideal, whose blood pressure is already high, or who are at risk for hypertension.
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