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Study: Extra weight increases hypertension risk in women

January 14, 1998
Web posted at: 7:23 p.m. EST (0023 GMT)

BOSTON (CNN) -- A new study finds that extra weight and modest weight gains substantially increase a woman's risk of hypertension, or high blood pressure. But for women who are already overweight, shedding pounds can help lower that risk.

Researchers at Boston's Brigham & Women's Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health followed more than 82,000 female nurses between the ages of 30 and 55 for 16 years. They looked at body mass index (BMI), a measure of obesity that adjusts for height. Researchers found that a higher BMI at midlife is strongly related to an increased risk of hypertension.

Specifically, women who gained between 11 and 22 pounds during adulthood had a 70 percent increase in the risk of high blood pressure. Overweight women who lost a modest amount of weight, 11-22 pounds, decreased their risk for hypertension 15 percent. Those who lost 22 pounds decreased their risk more than 25 percent.

The study, published in this week's Annals of Internal Medicine, is the first of its scale to look at the long-term effects of weight gain and weight loss and the effect on high blood pressure.


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