DALLAS — A new weight loss drug is helping people do more than just slim down. Researchers working with the American Heart Association reveal the weight loss medication tirzepatide can help lower blood pressure in obese adults. The study, involving nearly 500 adults with obesity, found that tirzepatide substantially reduced systolic blood pressure — the top number in a blood pressure reading — over approximately eight months of treatment.
Systolic blood pressure measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. It’s considered a critical indicator of cardiovascular health, with high readings (hypertension) being a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. The American Heart Association’s 2024 statistics highlight the severity of the issue, noting that nearly half of all adults in the United States suffer from hypertension, with obesity affecting nearly 42 percent.
Tirzepatide’s mechanism of action is unique in that it simulates two metabolic hormones, enhancing insulin secretion and sensitivity after meals. This not only helps regulate blood sugar levels but also slows digestion and reduces appetite, leading to weight loss. This dual-action approach sets tirzepatide apart from other medications, such as semaglutide (Ozempic), which only targets one of these pathways.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recognized tirzepatide’s potential, approving it for treating Type 2 diabetes in 2022 and for chronic weight management in people with obesity or overweight conditions linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol in late 2023.
“Our findings indicate treating obesity with the weight loss medication tirzepatide may be an effective strategy for preventing or treating high blood pressure,” says study lead author Dr. James A. de Lemos, distinguished chair of cardiology and a professor of medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, in a media release.
“Although tirzepatide has been studied as a weight loss medication, the blood pressure reduction in our patients in this study was impressive. While it is not known if the impact on blood pressure was due to the medication or the participants’ weight loss, the lower blood pressure measures seen with tirzepatide rivaled what is seen for many hypertension medications.”
This research was part of a larger study, SURMOUNT-1, focusing on tirzepatide’s impact on weight loss. Participants were monitored using 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring, a method that provides a comprehensive view of blood pressure fluctuations throughout the day and night. Notably, nighttime systolic blood pressure reductions are crucial, as they’re a stronger predictor of cardiovascular and all-cause mortality than daytime readings.
The study’s results were consistent across various subgroups, including age, sex, body mass index, and hypertension risk factors, showcasing tirzepatide’s broad applicability. However, limitations exist, including the study’s focus on a subset of participants and the lack of assessment for dietary changes, which could also influence blood pressure.
“Overall, these data are encouraging that novel weight-loss medications are effective at reducing body weight and they are also effective at improving many of the cardiometabolic complications of obesity including hypertension, Type 2 diabetes and dyslipidemia, among others,” notes Dr. Michael E. Hall, chair of the writing group for the Association’s 2021 scientific statement on weight-loss strategies for prevention and treatment of hypertension and chair of the department of medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.
“While the impact of each of these beneficial effects is individually important, many of these obesity-related complications act synergistically to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Thus, strategies that mitigate multiple obesity-related complications may reduce the risk of cardiovascular events.”
The study is published in the journal Hypertension.