Diabetes and Hypertension – Link, Risk Factors, Treatment, and Prevention

Posted December 30, 2020 by Clint Kelly - See Editorial Guidelines

High blood pressure (hypertension) appears to be more prevalent among those with diabetes than those who do not. So, is there a link between diabetes and hypertension?

In this article, we will discuss the potential link between diabetes and hypertension, who’s at risk, and what you can do about it. First, here is a quick takeaway answer before we dive into the specifics.

Diabetes and Hypertension: Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure both have connections to obesity and cardiovascular disease. Each of these conditions can contribute to the worsening of the other, and the causes could be the same. They also have overlapping treatments. If left untreated, both of these conditions can have fatal outcomes.

Now that you have a brief answer in mind, let’s discuss the details around diabetes and hypertension.

Diagnosing Hypertension

Diabetes and Hypertension

If you have diabetes, then you should have your blood pressure checked regularly. Your blood pressure is checked using an inflatable arm cuff. You can check your blood pressure at home using an electronic blood pressure monitor.

There are two numbers to look at when it comes to measuring blood pressure. The top number is the systolic pressure, which measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. The bottom number is the diastolic pressure, which measures the pressure in your arteries between heart beats. The readings are measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).

Below is the breakdown of the stages of hypertension:

  • Normal: Below 120/80 mm Hg
  • Elevated: Systolic pressure between 120- and 129-mm Hg and a diastolic pressure below 80 mm Hg.
  • Stage 1 Hypertension: Systolic pressure of 130-139 mm Hg and diastolic pressure of 80-89 mm Hg.
  • Stage 2 Hypertension: Systolic pressure over 140 mm Hg and diastolic pressure of 90 mm Hg or higher.

If your doctor has diagnosed you with hypertension, then they may provide you with steps for monitoring your blood pressure regularly at home.

With this understanding of blood pressure, let’s discuss the link between diabetes and hypertension.

Link Between Diabetes and Hypertension

Diabetes and hypertension often occur together, which points to a link of some sort. It is estimated that in the US, high blood pressure occurs in 30% of patients with type 1 diabetes and between 50% and 80% of patients with type 2 diabetes. So, as you can see, there is a significant overlap between diabetes and hypertension, particularly with type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes and hypertension share some common causes, which include:

  • Obesity
  • Inflammation
  • Oxidative stress
  • Insulin resistance
Diabetes and Hypertension

Individuals suffering from one of these factors are at an increased risk of being diagnosed with both diabetes and high blood pressure.

When it comes to diabetes, a person is either not producing enough insulin or their cells are not responding to insulin correctly. The result of this is elevated blood sugar levels. This means that glucose remains in the bloodstream, and the body cannot use it for energy.

High blood sugar levels can cause damage to vital organs and blood vessels over time. The health of your organs and blood vessels is crucial for maintaining normal blood pressure. Blood vessels often lose their ability to stretch when glucose builds up in the bloodstream. This can contribute to elevating blood pressure. So, the damage to blood vessels caused by diabetes can directly lead to hypertension.

Diabetes often leads to kidney damage. Damage to the kidneys can cause fluid in the body to build up, which can increase blood pressure.

On the flip side, those that have hypertension tend to have an increased risk of developing diabetes. This may be due to the shared common causes among the two conditions.

Complications Associated with Diabetes and Hypertension

If your diabetes and hypertension are not properly managed, then serious complications can occur. One’s risk of cardiovascular and kidney disease exponentially increase if the conditions are not treated.

Having hypertension, along with diabetes, can put you at an increased risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or other heart-related problems due to damaged blood vessels.

Kidney disease caused by diabetes and hypertension can eventually lead to kidney failure. If you are experiencing kidney failure, you may need to be put on dialysis or require a kidney transplant.

Untreated diabetes has many complications apart from high blood pressure. Some of these complications may include nerve problems (neuropathy), vision loss (retinopathy), gum disease, and depression.

Risk Factors

Type 2 diabetes and hypertension also share common risk factors. Here is a list of potential risk factors:

  • Excess body fat
  • Inactive
  • Poor diet
  • Chronic stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Smoking
  • Older age
  • Deficient in vitamin D
  • Family history

Risk factors for hypertension alone may include:

  • High fat diet
  • High sodium diet
  • High alcohol consumption
  • Low potassium levels

Making adjustments to your lifestyle can help limit your risk of developing diabetes and hypertension.

Dealing with Diabetes and Hypertension – What to Do

Diabetes and Hypertension

Despite the severe complications that can occur from diabetes and hypertension, you can live a healthy and quality life through proper treatment and prevention.

Firstly, if you have already been diagnosed with either condition, you must take the proper medication prescribed by your doctor. If you are not taking your diabetes medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor, your blood sugars are likely to be uncontrolled. This can contribute to worsening high blood pressure.

Other methods for treatment and prevention include reaching a healthy weight and exercising regularly. Losing weight if you are overweight can significantly improve your insulin sensitivity and lower your risk of hypertension.

Likewise, regular exercise will also improve insulin sensitivity and aid in weight loss. Consistent, moderate exercise will improve blood flow and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. If you have been inactive or do not know where to begin, consult your doctor about getting started on an exercise plan.

Making adjustments to your diet can also help you lose weight and improve your blood sugar levels. Avoiding simple carbohydrate foods and foods containing high amounts of saturated and trans fat will prove to be beneficial for improving your diabetes and hypertension. Individuals should strive to consume plenty of high fiber foods, along with plenty of natural fruits and vegetables.

A healthy diet also consists of limiting alcohol consumption. Consuming high quantities of alcohol can negatively affect your blood sugar control and raise blood pressure further. It can also lead to weight gain, which, again, results in poor glucose and blood pressure control.

Smoking tobacco is another harmful factor. If you smoke, then consider taking steps to quit, as it can have serious negative effects that result in diabetes and hypertension.   

Final Thoughts

We hope this has given you greater insight into the connection between diabetes and high blood pressure. These are two conditions that must be taken seriously. Therefore, if you have any questions or doubts, consult your doctor right away.

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