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blood preasureEven Dropping a Few Pounds Good for Blood Pressure

For the millions of Americans who are overweight, new research provides one more reason to resolve to shed a few pounds in the new year. Even modest weight loss can lead to long-term reduction in blood pressure, study findings show.

But as anyone who has ever tried to lose weight knows, keeping the pounds off is not easy. Study participants had a hard time maintaining weight loss, which highlights the need for weight-loss programs that keep shrinking waistlines from expanding again, according to the study's authors.

The study included nearly 1,200 overweight men and women aged 30 to 54 who had blood pressure in the upper range of normal, meaning that they were at risk of developing high blood pressure, or hypertension (140/90 or greater).

The participants had systolic blood pressure (the first number in a blood pressure reading) that was lower than 140 and diastolic blood pressure (the second number) ranging from 83 to 89.

Half of the participants were assigned to a 3- years weight-loss program that included group and individual counseling. The other half was assigned to a "control" group that received normal medical care. Weight and blood pressure were measured every 6 months.

As expected, participants who lost the most weight had the largest reductions in blood pressure. In the one-fifth of people who lost the most weight, diastolic blood pressure and systolic blood pressure dropped an average of 7 and 5 points, respectively. In contrast, diastolic pressure dropped only 0.7 points and systolic pressure rose 2.5 points in those in the bottom one-fifth of weight loss group.

The researchers also report that people in the weight-loss group were less likely to develop high blood pressure.

But the drop in high blood pressure disappeared when participants regained the weight they had lost, the report indicates. In people who lost weight only to regain it, blood pressure readings crept back up to nearly the same level as they had been before they lost weight.

Weight loss should continue to be promoted for preventing high blood pressure. The challenge is to develop weight-loss programs that achieve higher long-term success rates.

The results of the study leave no doubt that weight reduction is a worthwhile objective for people whose body weight is higher than ideal, whose blood pressure is already high, or who are at risk for hypertension.

Interestingly, the study showed that just 13% of people in the weight-loss group were able to maintain their weight loss for 3 years.

There is no simple solution to the problem of obesity.

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