Nearly one in three American adults has high blood pressure (hypertension), and two in three diabetics report having hypertension or taking prescription medications to lower their blood pressure. Almost 80 percent of Type 2 diabetics struggle with moderating their hypertension. A recent investigation has made strides in discovering why these diseases coexist in so many patients.
Confirming the Link
After following 38,000 middle-aged women for 10 years, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School reported that constantly elevated blood pressure doubled their risk of developing diabetes — regardless of their BMI. Diabetes was also more likely to occur if their blood pressure increased over time — even if it stayed under the hypertension threshold.
These two conditions may have a common cause, according to study author David Conen, M.D., a research fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Potential culprits include high inflammation levels and a malfunction in the blood vessels’ inner lining that allows blood cells to leak into and damage surrounding tissue.
Diseases Share Typical Risk Factors
Hypertension and diabetes also have many predisposing factors in common. The same set of criteria that puts you at risk for developing high blood pressure also contributes to your chances of becoming diabetic. A high-fat diet that is rich in salt and processed sugars puts stress on your cardiovascular system and enzyme production.
Inadequate physical activity leads to stiff arteries and a poorly responsive cardiovascular system. A sedentary lifestyle also decreases the efficiency of insulin. Excess body weight, a strong risk factor for both high blood pressure and diabetes, has similar consequences. So if you engage in a lifestyle that leads to hypertension, you usually follow patterns that put you at risk for diabetes.
Blood pressure is the force of blood flow through your vessels. Doctors consider readings below 130/80 to be optimal. If yours is 140/90, you have pre-hypertension. More elevated readings indicate high blood pressure.
The majority of hypertension patients are unaware of their condition until a routine physical examination discovers it. Symptoms may include persistent headache, vision problems and/or dizziness. But these signs don’t generally appear until your blood pressure reaches a dangerously high level that exceeds 170/110.
Your heart has to work harder to keep blood flowing throughout your body when your blood pressure is high. If your heart is under constant pressure to push blood in and out of your arteries and veins, it can’t relax in between beats. Elevated blood pressure can damage your body quietly for years before you detect its presence. An overworked heart muscle increases your chances of developing other diseases.
If you have hypertension, you need to be on the lookout for diabetes symptoms. Common signs include frequent urination, feeling very thirsty and hungry, extreme fatigue, blurry vision, slow-healing cuts and bruises and tingling, pain or numbness in your hands and feet.
Most people who receive diabetes diagnoses are overweight, eat diets that are high in fats and sugars and have sedentary lifestyles. Older people develop diabetes often because metabolism changes and the aging process causes them to gain weight, become less mobile and store fat deposits instead of burning them.
Consequences of this Self-Reinforcing Combination
Elevated blood pressure can affect the delicate insulin-secreting areas of your pancreas, leading to higher blood sugar. The excess glucose in diabetes has many adverse consequences including slow but serious damage to sensitive blood vessels. Affected capillaries impair your kidneys’ blood-pressure-regulating abilities, leading to higher readings. This increased pressure causes small changes in blood flow, which expose other capillaries to additional harm.
The high blood pressure/diabetes combination is a self-reinforcing loop that tends to worsen both diseases over time. Unless you seek treatment, these diseases will feed off each other and create a dangerous scenario. They can lead to coronary heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, peripheral nerve damage, kidney disease, dementia or other cognitive impairments, glaucoma and erectile dysfunction.
Unfortunately, high blood pressure won’t go away on its own. While treating hypertension, the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor Quinapril also alleviates the burden this condition places on your heart. Other high blood pressure medication types include angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), beta blockers, calcium channel blockers and diuretics.
Because high blood pressure increases your diabetes risk, you need to have regular blood sugar tests. If you develop Type 2 diabetes, your doctor may prescribe an oral drug or injectable insulin.
Other Ways to Control Your Blood Pressure and Diabetes
Eat at least one serving of fresh fruits and vegetables with every meal.
Reduce meat fats by removing skin and eating only extra-lean beef.
Broil, bake or roast foods instead of frying them.
Flavor foods with herbs and spices instead of salt.
Check labels and choose food with less than 400 milligrams of sodium per serving.
Eat whole-grain breads and cereals.
Consume fat-free dairy products.
Lose excess pounds and maintain a healthy weight.
If your doctor allows you to drink alcohol, limit your consumption.
Increase your physical activity.
Manage Your Overall Health
Besides sharing common risk factors, hypertension and diabetes respond to the same combination of healthy solutions. Monitor both conditions regularly, take all of your medications on schedule, follow a healthy diet plan and exercise frequently to improve your quality of life.