Friday, October 27, 2017 by Isabelle Z.
We all know that being overweight is bad for your health, so when you notice yourself packing on a few extra pounds, it’s only natural to do everything in your power to shed them. While this certainly beats allowing yourself to become obese, it’s not something you want to make a habit of doing, as a new study shows just how much better off you’d be if you had maintained a healthy weight in the first place.
The study examined the effects that five lifestyle behaviors have on a person’s health: Drinking very little or no alcohol, avoiding smoking, exercising, consuming healthy foods and maintaining a healthy weight. It was the last behavior that stood out for its effects on the participants’ blood pressure.
These results are getting a lot of attention because they came after studying 4,630 people over the course of 25 years. The participants were between the ages of 18 and 30 when they started the study back in 1985 and 1986. They were followed throughout the years until they reached middle age, and the researchers discovered that those who maintained a healthy weight throughout the time period studied had the best blood pressure readings regardless of their other health-related habits. Even remaining physically active and maintaining a healthy diet did not have an effect on blood pressure the way staying at a healthy weight did.
The news couldn’t be timelier as the holidays get closer, a time when many people overindulge with the idea that they’ll work off those extra pounds in the new year. You can still have a serving of your grandmother’s pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, but don’t let yourself go throughout all of November and December thinking you’ll be just fine if you hit the gym in earnest come January.
Even though the other four behaviors did not have as big of an effect on blood pressure as maintaining a healthy weight, the researchers were quick to caution that they are still very beneficial for your health. When they examined the five behaviors combined, they discovered that the people who maintained at least four of them had a 27 percent higher likelihood of having normal blood pressure than rising blood pressure as they got older.
High blood pressure is nicknamed the “silent killer” because it often doesn’t have any noticeable symptoms in its early stages. It is estimated that around one out of every three American adults – 75 million in total – are living with this condition, which can boost their chances of heart disease and stroke. It’s believed to be behind 1,000 deaths a day in the U.S.
It’s not just heart disease and stroke that you need to worry about when you have high blood pressure, however. It has also been linked to memory loss and cognitive decline, with one study determining that every rise of 10 mm Hg in a person’s systolic blood pressure increased their risk of cognitive decline by 4.1 percent.
If you’re already overweight, don’t take this news as an excuse to do nothing so that your weight won’t fluctuate. You need to reach a healthy weight, then do your best to maintain it if you want to increase your chances of having a healthy blood pressure as you age. Start by eliminating processed foods and sugar from your diet – and steer clear of artificial sweeteners, too. Focus on consuming organic fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and some whole grains. The Mediterranean diet is a great choice for heart health, with its focus on olive oil, fish, poultry, and whole grains while limiting processed and conventionally grown red meat. It’s never too late to make a positive change in your diet, and it could end up saving your life.