Getting fit but staying fat won't help blood pressure

Sun Aug 1, 2010 8:54pm EDT
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - If you're trying to bring your blood pressure to a healthy level, a U.S. study suggests that how much you weigh is more important than how fit you are.

As expected, the study of about 35,000 people by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center found overweight or obese people were more likely to have a high systolic blood pressure - the top number in a blood pressure reading.

But for those with a high body mass index (BMI) - a measure of weight versus height -- how in shape they were only had a small impact on their blood pressure.

The researchers said these results suggest that people who are trying to decrease their risk for high blood pressure should focus on losing weight and increasing physical fitness should be a secondary goal.

"Obesity is such a strong predictor of blood pressure or hypertension risk that having a normal body weight is really what's going to drive your blood pressure" rather than your fitness level, researcher Dr. Susan Lakoski, a cardiologist, told Reuters Health.

At least in terms of lowering your risk for high blood pressure, she added: "It's not realistic to be fit and fat."

For the study, published in the American Heart Journal (, Lakoski and her colleagues analyzed data from about 35,000 patients, mostly white men, collected over the last 20 years at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas.

When patients came into the clinic, doctors measured their body composition, blood pressure, and fitness levels.

To determine how fit patients were, the doctors timed how long they could keep up a comfortable walking pace on a treadmill at varying inclines and speeds.   Continued...

<p>Devices used to take blood pressure, temperature, and examine eyes and ears rest on a wall inside of a doctor's office in New York March 22, 2010. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>