Weight Loss Drugs Significantly Lower Blood Pressure, Study Finds

Weight Loss Drugs Significantly Lower Blood Pressure, Study Finds
06.02.2024
  • Weight loss drug tirzepatide is linked with a drop in blood pressure in a new study.
  • Researchers found a substantial reduction within 36 weeks on the medication.
  • Doctors say this could be linked to weight loss or something else entirely.

Medications like semaglutide and tirzepatide have made headlines for months for their role in helping people with obesity lose a significant amount of weight. But research is consistently finding additional benefits of going on these medications. Now, there’s a new one to add to the list: They may help lower blood pressure.

That’s the major finding from a new study published in the American Heart Association’s journal, Hypertension. For the study, researchers analyzed data from 600 people who participated in the SURMOUNT-1 weight loss study to see if there was an impact on blood pressure in people who took tirzepatide, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for weight loss in November under the name, Zepbound.

Study participants either received a placebo or a tirzepatide dose of 5 milligrams, 10 milligrams, or 15 milligrams. About 1/3 of study participants had high blood pressure (a.k.a. hypertension) at the start of the study and were taking one or more medications for it.

After 36 weeks, researchers found that study participants in all of the tirzepatide groups had lowered blood pressure by the end, with the biggest reduction in systolic blood pressure (the top number in a reading) being 10.6 mmHg in the 10 milligram group.

The researchers also found that people on tirzepatide had lowered blood pressure when they did measurements during the day and at night. Here’s what doctors want you to know about the findings. (Note: Prevention no longer uses the Body Mass Index (BMI) as a measurement of health.)

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Why might weight loss drugs help lower blood pressure?

Doctors agree that a lot of this is likely due to weight loss. “Typically, the greater the degree of weight loss, the greater the degree of blood pressure decrease,” says Colleen Tewksbury, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., a registered dietitian and associate professor at Penn Medicine. “It may not be the medication by itself.”

In this particular study, patients who took tirzepatide lost up to 20.9% of their body weight compared to those who took a placebo.

“The findings are impressive, although not unexpected given the critical role that weight gain plays in causing hypertension in the first place,” says Christoph Buettner, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the division of endocrinology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Since high blood pressure is often linked to having obesity or overweight, lowering a person’s body fat should reduce their blood pressure, he says.

In fact, weight loss can be so effective for lowering blood pressure, that patients on blood pressure medicines should check in with their doctor regularly if they’re losing weight, says Mir Ali, M.D., a bariatric surgeon and medical director of MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA. “Their blood pressure medications will likely need to be adjusted,” he says.

But it’s also possible that tirzepatide itself impacts blood pressure, says Sahil Parikh, M.D., director of endovascular services at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center. “It remains unclear if the blood pressure reduction is benefitting from the drug having a direct effect on blood pressure, as opposed to the indirect impact on blood pressure through weight loss alone,” he says.

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The study focused on tirzepatide, but Dr. Buettner says that fellow weight loss drug semaglutide “has similar effects” when it comes to impact on blood pressure.

While high blood pressure is linked to serious health conditions like heart attack, stroke, and heart failure, “we will need long-term trial results” to see if weight-loss medications can reduce those risks, too, says Laxmi Mehta, M.D., a non-invasive cardiologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

How tirzepatide works

Tirzepatide is a medication that’s used to help manage type 2 diabetes (under the name Mounjaro) and for weight loss (under the name Zepbound). It’s an injectable medication that’s taken once a week to help with weight loss in people who have obesity or overweight.

The medication specifically targets glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) agonists, which encourage the body to produce more insulin (a hormone that escorts blood sugar to cells, where they’re used for energy) when blood sugars start to rise, along with something called glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) receptors, Dr. Ali explains.

Zepbound can also make you feel fuller longer, as well as reduce cravings, causing people to feel less hungry than usual on the medication.

Natural ways to lower blood pressure

If you’re concerned about your blood pressure, doctors say there are a few things you can do:

  • Be active. “Exercise is critical to heart health, and it is one of the best ways that you can lower your blood pressure naturally,” says Nicole Weinberg, M.D., a cardiologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA.
  • Ask your doctor if you should try to lose weight. “For every 10 pounds of weight loss, you can expect a significant blood pressure drop,” Dr. Weinberg says.
  • Rethink your diet. Dr. Buettner recommends following a heart-healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy.
  • Limit alcohol. “If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation,” Dr. Buettner says.
  • Try to manage your stress levels. That can include doing things like deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or things that relax you, Dr. Buettner says.
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It’s also important to stay on top of your blood pressure, even if you do everything else right, Dr. Parikh says. “As we age, there is a tendency for blood pressure to go up, and in time, medication may be critical,” he says.

As of right now, there’s nothing to suggest that weight loss drugs will lower your blood pressure if you don’t have overweight or obesity, Tewksbury says. But if you’re concerned about your blood pressure levels, check in with your doctor. They should be able to offer personalized advice.

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