The association of obesity with hypertension has been amply demonstrated in cross-sectional, longitudinal, and dietary-intervention studies, but the mechanisms remain enigmatic. Both conditions are independently characterized by similar metabolic alterations, i.e., glucose intolerance, dyslipoproteinemia, elevated serum uric acid, and inadequate Na+ transport. Obesity, hypertension, and these metabolic alterations are associated with hyperinsulinemia/insulin resistance. The degree of these alterations is lowest in lean hypertensives, intermediate in obese normotensives, and greatest in obese hypertensives, but mortality risk is highest in lean hypertensives. This apparent discrepancy may be related to the divergent hemodynamic characteristics, possibly indicating different etiology, of lean and obese hypertensives, i.e., contracted blood volume, increased total vascular peripheral resistance, and normal sympathetic drive in the former, expanded blood volume, normal peripheral resistance, and increased sympathetic drive in the latter. Current knowledge suggests that the interrelationships of obesity and hypertension with the metabolic alterations could be mediated by high carbohydrate and fat consumption and low physical activity, resulting in obesity and separate pathways in hyperinsulinemia and increased sympathetic drive, leading to a double vicious cycle. In one, hyperinsulinemia and the consequent insulin resistance would compound one another. In the second, the increasing hyperinsulinemia would increasingly stimulate the sympathetic nervous system. This double vicious cycle could result in increasing hemodynamic and metabolic derangements causing hypertension, diabetes, and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD). The association of lean hypertension with ASCVD may be through other mechanisms, e.g., hemodynamic forces on the vascular endothelium.

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