You may be able to lower your blood pressure by doing something as simple as taking off a few pounds or using the medication orlistat.

Thats the conclusion drawn from a meta-analysis of previously published studies reported in the March 24 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and is responsible for approximately 7 million deaths worldwide each year. Lowering blood pressure levels in those with hypertension has been shown to reduce cardiovascular risk, with corresponding decreases in illness and death.

Weight reduction is recommended in major guidelines as an initial intervention in the treatment of hypertensive patients, the authors of the study write. Among the possible means of reducing body weight are lifestyle modifications and pharmacologic and invasive interventions.

Researchers from the Medical University of Graz, Austria, performed a meta-analysis of 48 articles that were published before March 2007 and analyzed weight-loss interventions for patients with hypertension.

Of those studies, 38 assessed diet and 10 focused on medications for weight loss, including five evaluating orlistat and five assessing sibutramine. No relevant articles were located regarding the weight loss drug rimonabant or evaluating surgical weight reduction.

Patients assigned to weight loss diets, orlistat or sibutramine reduced their body weight more effectively than did patients in the usual care/placebo groups, the authors write. Reduction of blood pressure was higher in patients treated with weight loss diets or orlistat. Sibutramine treatment, however, did not lower overall blood pressure and appeared to increase systolic (top number) blood pressure.

A reduction in body weight of approximately 8.8 pounds was necessary to achieve a reduction of approximately 6 milligrams of mercury in systolic blood pressure with dietary treatment and of approximately 2.5 milligrams of mercury with orlistat, the authors write. None of the studies provided data to answer the question whether risk of mortality [death] or other patient-relevant end points can be lowered by weight reduction.