New AHA guidance targets obesity-related hypertension


Whereas previous scientific statements from the American Heart Association have addressed how diet, physical activity, and weight control can help prevent and manage hypertension, a new AHA statement focuses on obesity-related hypertension.


The document, which was published online Sept. 20, 2021, in Hypertension, also identifies knowledge gaps and suggests future research directions.

“Given [that] obesity is a major risk factor for hypertension, and hypertension is one of the greatest (if not the greatest) attributable risk factors for most cardiovascular diseases, we thought it was important to focus on weight loss strategies and update what we know about the treatment options that are available to treat obesity hypertension,” writing group chair Michael E. Hall, MD, told this news organization.

“Medical and surgical strategies may help with long-term weight and blood pressure improvement, in addition to a heart-healthy diet and physical activity,” he noted in a press release from the AHA. “We often don’t consider medications or metabolic surgery until after there has been target organ damage, such as heart injury or having a stroke.”

However, by acting earlier, “we may be able to prevent these complications,” added Dr. Hall, associate division director for cardiovascular diseases at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.

“This is not a call for greater use of one specific therapy,” he clarified. “However, we do know that more aggressive treatments including antiobesity medications or metabolic surgery are underutilized.”

According to Dr. Hall, “we treat the secondary problem [i.e., the hypertension or diabetes], but we are not treating the root cause [obesity] as aggressively.”

“Hopefully this statement will increase awareness that there are several [treatment] options [and] bring attention to this major health issue,” he said.

He added that the most important question, in his mind, is how best to tackle obesity among children and adolescents to lower their risk of hypertension and other associated complications.

The statement is aimed at both primary care providers and specialists.

Diet, physical activity help, but weight regain common

Losing 5%-10% of body weight can lead to a more than 5–mm Hg reduction in systolic blood pressure and a 4–mm Hg reduction in diastolic blood pressure, the statement notes. Losing 10 kg may lower systolic blood pressure by 5-20 mm Hg.

To manage weight, control hypertension, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, guidelines recommend the Mediterranean diet or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, which both emphasize fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds, with moderate intake of fish, seafood, poultry, and dairy, and low intake of red and processed meats and sweets. The Mediterranean diet also includes olive oil and moderate consumption of (mainly red) wine.

The effect of intermittent fasting on blood pressure control is not clear, the statement noted.

It added that typically 150-225 minutes and 225-420 minutes of physical activity per week can produce weight loss of 2-3 kg or 5-7.5 kg respectively, and 200-300 minutes of physical activity per week is needed to maintain this weight loss.

“Successful weight-loss maintenance over years therefore typically requires high levels of [physical activity] and limited sedentary time, frequent weight monitoring, and high levels of dietary restraint,” and weight regain is common, the authors summarize.


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