PRESSURED TO LOSE WEIGHT For those who are overweight, new research shows how important it is to control your blood pressure as well as lose those extra pounds.

Scientists studying nearly 250,000 people in France found that only overweight people who also had high blood pressure were at significantly greater risk of dying of heart-related problems than normal-weight people.

This doesn't mean that extra pounds aren't dangerous, researchers said, because overweight people are more likely to develop hypertension over time.

But it does show that blood pressure may be an important mediator, or mechanism by which excess weight can cause heart problems, said Frank Hu, an associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, who reviewed the work. The study appeared last week in the journal Hypertension.

Health experts have long agreed that obesity raises the risk of dying, but they argue about how dangerous it is to be merely overweight.

The new study found that, over a given period of time, overweight people have a greater risk of dying, from all causes as well as specifically from cardiovascular causes. But when researchers took into account health factors that affect the heart, like high cholesterol, diabetes and hypertension, only high blood pressure made a difference in the risk of dying.

The study points to the importance of controlling both weight and blood pressure, experts said. The research included few obese people, so the researchers made no conclusions about that group, which much research shows is at elevated risk of death.

-- From News Services