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Your weight and your blood pressure

 

Being a healthy weight is one of the most important things you can do for your blood pressure.

Losing weight doesn’t need to feel like a struggle, even losing a small amount, 5 or 10% of your body weight, can make a big difference, and there’s lots of simple changes you can make to get started.

 

How does losing weight help lower your blood pressure?

If you are overweight, losing weight will lower your blood pressure because your heart doesn't have to work so hard to pump the blood around your body. It lowers your risk of many other health problems, including stroke, diabetes and heart disease, and can make you feel better too, giving you more energy to do the things you want to.

 

How do you know if you’re a healthy weight?

Your doctor or nurse will be able to talk to you about whether you’re a healthy weight or not and give you ideas to get it under control.

Your BMI and your waist circumference are both good measures of whether you are a healthy weight, and you can check these for yourself as well.

 

Your BMI (body mass index)
Your BMI is a measure of overweight and obesity, it tells you if you’re a healthy weight for your height.

Use the BMI healthy weight calculator from the NHS to find your BMI, or you can calculate it yourself.

You need to know your height in metres and your weight in kilograms, then divide your weight by your height in metres squared. Like this:

Weight in Kg

Height in M2

So if your height is 1m 70cm, thats 1.7 metres. Times it by itself, so 1.7 x 1.7 is 2.89. Then divide you’re weight by this number. If your weight is 60kg, it would look like this:

60Kg

2.89

= 20.8

 

What your BMI means

  • less than 18.5– this is considered underweight and you may need to gain weight
  • 5-24.9– you are in the healthy range. By eating healthily and keeping active you should be able to stay in the range
  • 25-29.9– this is considered overweight and losing weight will help to lower your blood pressure and your risk of disease
  • 30-35– this is considered obese. Losing weight will improve your health.
  • over 35– this is considered very obese. Visit your doctor for a health check, as you may need extra help to manage your weight and health.

 

Your waist circumference
A waist circumference of 94cm (37in) or more in men, and 80cm (31.5in) in women is linked to a higher risk of health problems. Simply use a tape measure to measure around the narrowest part of your waste, just above your tummy button.

 

How to lose weight healthily

The calories in your food and drink give your body the energy and nutrients it needs. Weight gain is generally caused by eating and drinking more calories than you burn off, as the extra energy is stored as fat. Our modern lifestyles don’t help, as they often involve sitting for many hours a day, commuting, and eating cheap, convenient foods which tend to be high in fat and sugar.

Being more active and making healthy swaps to what you eat are the simplest ways to get to or maintain a healthy weight. And there’s lots of support available. Try some of the ideas below or visit your doctor or nurse to get started.

Make small changes you can stick to

Make small changes to what you eat and how active you are so that you can keep them going for life. It’s more about changing your lifestyle for the long term than going on a diet.

There are lots of fad and extreme diets that cut out meals or specific foods groups. While you may see quick results, it’s really hard to follow restrictive diets in the long-term. Once you go back to eating normally, the weight will creep back on. Making small changes over time will be easier to stick to and work better in the long run.

Pay attention to what you’re eating
It’s very easy to take on calories without really thinking about it, but it takes a lot of time and effort to burn off the same amount.

For example, it takes seconds to take on 220 calories in a chocolate bar or a latte, but it takes around 50 minutes of low intensity cycling or over an hour of dog-walking to burn off the same amount.

Be careful of high fat foods
Eating too many high-fat foods or foods with lots of added sugar can lead to weight gain and make it harder to lose weight. By making healthier choices you won’t necessarily need to eat less and some simple swaps can make a real difference.

Make simple swaps

If you drink sugar-sweetened drinks, swap them for water which you flavour naturally – try adding fruit such as lemon, orange or pineapple, or cucumber and mint, to save on unnecessary calories. Or swap crisps for home-made unsalted popcorn.

Eat more fibre
Most of us don’t eat enough fibre, which is contained in fruit, veg, pulses and wholemeal and wholegrain foods. High fibre foods take longer to digest than sugary or refined foods so you will feel fuller for longer.

To eat more fibre:

  • swap sugary breakfast cereals for unsweetened muesli or porridge – they’re delicious with fruit and yoghurt
  • swap white bread and pasta for wholemeal versions
  • have two portions of veg on your plate at lunch and dinner
  • add pulses – lentils, beans and peas – to your soups and casseroles
  • snack on fruit and vegetables instead of high-calorie snacks, like crisps and chocolate.


Eat enough protein
Include a protein-rich food at each meal, as this helps you to feel fuller for longer. Choose lower-fat options such as white meat without skin, lean cuts of red meat, fish, eggs, tofu and other vegetarian proteins such as beans and lentils.

If you’re making a Bolognese or Shepherd’s pie for example, try replacing some of the meat with lentils or beans to add protein and fibre while cutting down on saturated fat.

Eat more fruit and veg
Eating more fruit and veg lowers your risk of health problems like heart disease and stroke. They’re high in potassium which and lowers your blood pressure, as well as fibre, vitamins and other nutrients.

Go for at least five a day by including them with every meal and as snacks. One portion or serving is about 80g, or one handful, such as one apple or seven strawberries.

Keep an eye on your portion sizes
Be aware of how much you’re eating. Even if what you eat is healthy, eating too much of it will make you put on weight. Portions sizes have grown over the years – along with our waistlines – so what seems like a normal or healthy amount could be more than you need.

To control your portions:

  • weigh your pasta and rice and stick to the serving sizes on the packet
  • use smaller bowls and plates, which makes your meal appear bigger
  • fill your plate up with vegetables and a side salad so your plate is fuller, with very few extra calories
  • take your time over a meal, eat slowly and enjoy it – you’re more likely to recognise when you’ve had enough and stop before you feel uncomfortably full
  • avoid eating in front of the TV as it makes you less conscious of what and how much you’re eating.


Be realistic
Set yourself realistic goals. Aim to lose around 5-10% of your overall weight over three to six months. A weight loss of between 0.5-1 kilogram (1-2 pounds) a week is good.

You don’t have to reach your ideal BMI to see results – although it’s great for your overall wellbeing – losing just 5 - 10% of your overall weight will make a big difference to your health.

Find cheerleaders
It is not always easy losing weight, and you can quickly get bored or give up without encouragement. Tell your family and friends so you can get support when you need it, or if you think it might help, you could join a weight-loss group. Some people find that having support from other people who are trying to lose weight can give them the extra encouragement and motivation they need.

 

 

 

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Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Charterhouse Square, London, EC1M 6BQ

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