Study Documents Hypertension Association with Obesity and Heavy Alcohol Consumption

Race and ethnicity, age, obesity, and heavy alcohol consumption are strongly associated with hypertension in both men and women over the age of 40, according to the results of a study by Virginia Tech researchers to be presented at the Experimental Biology 2002 conference, being held in New Orleans through April 24.

"Our findings demonstrate the importance of maintaining proper weight to prevent and control hypertension," said Richard Forshee, research assistant professor for Virginia Techs Center for Food and Nutrition Policy. "If you are overweight or obese, losing weight will reduce your risk of hypertension and provide other health benefits."

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a serious medical condition affecting approximately 50 million adult Americans. Hypertension is associated with several severe health problems, including increased risk of stroke and coronary heart disease.

Forshee and Maureen Storey, acting director of the Center for Food and Nutrition Policy, analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III, a nationally representative survey of the diet and health of Americans. Their findings will be presented on Wednesday, April 24, from 8 to 9 a.m. and will be exhibited in two posters all day at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

Storey's and Forshee's findings include:

Continue Reading Below ↓↓

For both men and women, the level of obesity is strongly related to hypertension. Men and women with a body mass index of over 40 were five times more likely to have hypertension than were men and women at the recommended index level of 25 or less. Even being slightly overweight, with an index level of 25 to 30, increased the risk of hypertension by 51 percent for men and 71 percent for women.

African-Americans are at a greater risk of hypertension than are whites. Controlling for other factors, including body mass index, African-American men were found to be 50 percent more likely to suffer from hypertension than white men, and African-American women were 71 percent more likely to have hypertension than white women.

Age is strongly related to hypertension. Men and women age 65 were 4.3 and 6.9 percent more likely, respectively, to have hypertension than men and women age 40.

Heavy alcohol consumption increases the risk of hypertension for both men and women. Men who reported consuming more than four drinks were twice as likely to have hypertension than men who did not consume alcohol the previous day. Women who consumed more than three drinks the previous day were 2.3 times more likely to have hypertension than women who did not drink the previous day. Moderate or light alcohol consumption did not have any relationship with hypertension.

The researchers also reported that people can take steps to battle hypertension.

"Losing weight is a difficult and often daunting challenge, but lowering your body mass index will reduce many health risks, even if you never achieve your ideal weight," Forshee said.

Storey said the study indicates that African-American women especially should pay attention to weight management.

"African-American women are at a greater risk for both obesity and hypertension," she said. "Our research shows that African-American women in the highest obesity category are almost five times more likely to have hypertension than are African-American women who maintain a recommended weight. Even at similar body weights, African-American women are seventy percent more likely to have hypertension than Caucasian women are."

The two researchers said their study supports on-going public health efforts that educate people to maintain proper weight, avoid excessive alcohol consumption, and be physically active. This is particularly important for African-Americans because they are at greater risk of hypertension even after taking into account body mass index, alcohol consumption, age, physical activity, and other factors.

The researchers say education efforts for men warrant more research. Public health campaigns should consider how the life circumstances of men affect their response to information. Encouraging behavior changes among young, unmarried men may require different approaches than those targeting older, married men with children.

The research will be presented by Forshee and Storey from 8 to 9 a.m. on April 24. The poster will be on display all day.

Continue Reading Below ↓↓

The research was funded by the Center for Food Nutrition Policy at Virginia Tech, an independent, non-profit research and education center that studies food safety, biotechnology, and nutrition policy issues. Its mission is to advance rational, science-based food and nutrition policy, and it is recognized by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization as a center of excellence for food and nutrition policy.

Experimental Biology 2002 is a multi-society interdisciplinary biomedical scientific meeting sponsored by the American Physiological Society, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, American Society for Investigative Pathology, American Society for Nutritional Sciences, the American Association of Immunologists, the American Association of Anatomists, and various guest societies. Attending are some 14,000 biomedical researchers from around the world.

Source: Virginia Tech