Your blood pressure tends to rise as you get older. That’s why 65% of Americans over 60 have blood pressure (BP) higher than the healthy level of 120/80.1
Many people want to avoid the side effects of taking BP pills. So they turn to natural methods.
You probably already know that certain lifestyle behaviors lower blood pressure. But a new study finds that one factor is more powerful than all the others.2
Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham followed almost 4,700 volunteers for 25 years. The subjects were 18 to 30 years old when the study started.3
They regularly measured the volunteers’ blood pressure and charted five lifestyle factors:
- Body weight
They found that one of these is more powerful than all the others combined…
It’s body weight.
The volunteers who kept a steady, healthy body weight as they aged were 41% less likely to have increased blood pressure during the study.
Those who followed healthy guidelines for all four of the other factors reduced their risk by only 27%.
John Booth III is a postdoctoral fellow in epidemiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He is the study’s lead author. “Our results indicate by maintaining a healthy body weight into middle age, you can help preserve low blood pressure,” he said.
The study recently was presented at an American Heart Association conference in San Francisco.
How Weight Affects Blood Pressure
Being overweight puts extra strain on your heart. Extra weight compresses your blood vessels. The narrower your arteries become, the more force is needed to move blood through your body.
Blood pressure increases to overcome the problem. This can lead to arrhythmia, heart attack, or stroke.4
As you age, blood vessels lose elasticity. Carrying extra weight hastens this process. Maintaining a healthy weight keeps the vessels more pliable, which helps keep blood pressure low.
How to Tell If Your Weight is Healthy
For decades, the body mass index (BMI) has been touted as the best formula to determine if you are overweight.5
But as we have told you previously, it is an all but worthless measurement. The problem is that it is a simple ratio of height and weight. This means it measures fat and muscle equally.
A 200-pound NFL player in perfect physical condition could have the same BMI as a couch potato of identical height and weight. Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime would be considered grossly obese based on the BMI.
In 2016, a massive study by UCLA researchers came to the same conclusion: BMI is a poor predictor of health…particularly heart health.6
There is a better and easier way to determine if your weight is healthy. A British study of 300,000 people found that waist size is a more accurate marker of good health.
The formula is simple: Your waist should be half your height or less. For example, a 6-foot (72 inches tall) man should have a waist size of 36 inches or less. A 5-foot-4 (64 inches tall) woman’s waist should not exceed 32 inches.
To measure your waist correctly:
- Stand and place a tape measure around your middle, just above your hipbones.
- Make sure tape is horizontal.
- Keep the tape snug around the waist, but not compressing the skin.
- Measure your waist just after you breathe out normally.
Editor’s Note: Something strange was happening to pilots training to fly F-16 fighter jets. The ones who went into the program with elevated blood pressure were coming out a few weeks later with normal, healthy readings.
They hadn’t taken any medications… Their diets hadn’t changed… And they hadn’t made any changes to their exercise regimens.