More fat around your legs may protect from high blood pressure, study suggests

Health

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Your “thunder thighs” could be keeping hypertension at bay.

A study shown at the American Heart Association’s Hypertension virtual conference explained a study abstract from National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys that researched nearly 6,000 adults without cardiovascular disease.

Participants were categorized by how much leg fat they had and then had blood pressure monitored — of the total participants, according to Newsweek, 24% had high blood pressure.

The study participants ranged in ages from 20 to 59 and in addition to not having cardiovascular disease, were not pregnant and/or taking heart medication.

According to the study, which Newsweek says is unclear whether or not is peer-reviewed, participants with higher leg fat were 53% less likely to have high diastolic blood pressure and 39% less likely to have high systolic.

Blood pressure is measured using two numbers: diastolic and systolic.

Diastolic blood pressure measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats.

Systolic blood pressure measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Participants in the study were also 61% less likely to develop the type of hypertension where both their diastolic and systolic pressures were high, Newsweek reports.

If a measurement reads 120 systolic and 80 diastolic — a normal blood pressure measurement — you would say your pressure is “120 over 80.”

Hypertension is diagnosed differently by different medical professionals, the CDC says, with some diagnosing patients if their blood pressure consistently reads at 140/90 or higher. Other health care professionals diagnose at 130/80 levels.

High blood pressure typically has zero warning signs or symptoms and develops over time. Lack of physical activity and certain conditions, like diabetes or obesity, increase risk of developing high blood pressure.

“Ultimately, what we noted in this study is a continued discussion of ‘it’s not just how much fat you have, but where the fat is located,’ said co-author Aayush Visaria, of Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

“Although we know confidently that fat around your waist is detrimental to health, the same cannot be said for leg fat. If you have fat around your legs, it is more than likely not a bad thing and may even be protecting you from hypertension, according to our findings.”

But results still need to be verified with more studies, the doctor says.

Hypertension can increase risks of heart attack and heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.

For information on having your blood pressure measured, click here.

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