The American College of Cardiology mentions that high blood pressure is often called the “silent killer.” That’s because many times the condition is symptomless – but if left untreated, it can increase your risk of stroke and heart attack.
High blood pressure, medically referred to as hypertension, occurs when the force of your blood flowing against your artery walls is too high – basically indicating that your heart is straining to get your blood pumped throughout your body.
Obesity has long been linked with high blood pressure, but more recent studies have indicated that one specific type of fat is particularly dangerous and prone to cause hypertension.
This fat, commonly known as “belly fat,” may increase your hypertension risk by interfering with the normal function of your internal organs.
Not All Fat is the Same
We all have two types of fat in our bodies: subcutaneous and visceral.
Subcutaneous fat lies directly beneath the skin, while visceral fat lies deep within the belly and surrounds all our internal organs.
This deep belly fat typically corresponds with our waist circumference.
In fact, waist circumference is one of the five factors in metabolic syndrome, defined by the Mayo Clinic as “a cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels — that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.”
This visceral fat is dangerous for many reasons.
Dangers of Too Much Visceral Fat
The Dallas Heart Study was one of the more recent ones to specifically link belly fat with hypertension.
This study found that participants with high levels of belly fat (fat around their abdominal organs) were far more likely to develop hypertension during the course of the study than those without it. Basically, the study participants’ total fat or body mass index didn’t have an effect on high blood pressure; only the belly fat did.
Although this was an observational study and did not definitively state that belly fat was the direct cause of the hypertension, some of the researchers hypothesized that the excess belly fat interfered with the function of the kidneys and adrenal glands, organs which regulate blood pressure.
Dr. Paula Johnson, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, explained in the Harvard Health Review that belly fat produces a number of factors that increase the risks of heart disease, such as hormones and other substances which promote inflammation, raise blood pressure, alter cholesterol levels, and interfere with normal blood vessel activity.
Getting Rid of Visceral Fat & High Blood Pressure
Healthy waist circumference for men is typically under 40 inches, and for women under 35 inches, according to the American College of Cardiology.
Talk to your doctor about your risk for high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome and overall heart health. Discuss a plan to combat these risks and then move the plan into action.
Regular cardiovascular exercise is one of the most effective thing you can do to combat both belly fat and high blood pressure, because it strengthens the heart as well as decreases overall fat (general weight loss will contribute to belly fat weight loss). Exercise need not be strenuous in order to be effective. For example, walking just thirty minutes 4-5 times per week is very helpful. Speak with your doctor about the best exercise regimen for your needs.
As you know, a healthy diet is a crucial factor in weight loss and an overall healthy lifestyle. Avoid processed foods, cut back on simple carbs (such as white bread and sugar) and avoid unhealthy fats (trans-fats and saturated fats). Replace them with healthier fats, such as those in avacado, coconut, fish, and nuts.
A healthier diet and regular exercise can not only cut down your risk for high blood pressure or serious heart problems, but will have you looking and feeling much better.