Friends for Life: Hypertension linked to belly fat

EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — One out of every three adults will suffer from hypertension at some point in their lives, according to health officials.

Also known as high blood pressure, hypertension is a silent killer that affects more men than woman.

“I was getting my teeth cleaned” Andy Mitchell of Lansing said.

A trip to the dentist turned into a life changing event.

Andy Mitchell was just 28 years old, when he found out he had high blood pressure. It was so high, he had to go to the doctor the next day, and he was put on medication for a few year.

“It was sort of a surprise to me, but when I started to do more research I found out it was hereditary and so my dad has hypertension as well,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell was an athlete all his life, but he is one of the 70 million American’s who have high blood pressure.

Dr. David Woltmann is a nephrologist who works with patients with hypertension. According to Woltmann, symptoms are rarely obvious.

”It’s called the silent killer for a reason, it, a lot, of people walk around, with high blood pressure they just don’t know it,” Woltmann said

Michigan State University researcher Dr. Gregory Fink says even though there isn’t a specific cause, 50 to 60% of people who are overweight have hypertension. “It’s not fat in general, it’s that specific local of fat” Fink said.

Fink has studied the correlation between body fat and high blood pressure for years, he said overall body fat is not related to high blood pressure, but belly fat is.

Dr. Fink said blood vessels work hard to pump blood to some of the most important organs in the body, and belly fat skews those signals.

“Fat is a very active tissue one of the things it does is it makes chemicals or messengers, that it sends out and it tells other parts of the body what to do” Fink said.

The best way to combat the silent killer and stomach fat is by working out, a lifestyle change Andy Mitchell knows well.

“Changing my lifestyle by eating healthier and also um, getting more, more active,” Andy Mitchell said.

His blood pressure is now under control, and as a father who wants to live a long life, he gives one last piece of advice.

“Check it out… as often as you can….” Mitchell said.

Michigan State received a $7 million grant from the National Institute of Health, to continue this research. Dr. Fink tells me he hopes to create a drug that will disconnect obesity from high blood pressure.

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