Diabetes patients are twice as likely to suffer from hypertension compared to individuals who do not have Diabetes, says the National High Blood Pressure Education Program Working Group. Approximately 3 million Americans, or two out of three people have both diseases today. In the UK the ratio is 3:10 in people with Type 1 Diabetes and 8:10 in people with Type 2 Diabetes.
Like sleep apnea, hypertension co-exists with Diabetes, especially Type 2. Whether hypertension is only secondary to diabetes or vice versa is still under observation.
What is Hypertension?
The heart pumps blood through blood vessels, which then distributes oxygen-carrying blood to various part of the body. The force of blood flow in the walls of these blood vessels is what we call blood pressure and is interpreted as systolic/diastolic millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).
Systolic is the measurement of the pressure in the arteries when the heart muscles pump blood (heartbeat) while diastolic is the measurement of the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests.
The normal systolic/diastolic result is 120/80. However, based on the American Heart Association or AHA’s recommended healthy blood pressure, this already qualifies for pre-hypertensive condition. Ideally, a healthy blood pressure should be less than 120/80. See below for details:
Stage 1 Hypertensive
Stage 2 Hypertensive
Advanced Hypertensive (emergency cases)
Of the two numbers, the systolic number is often the subject of concern because it serve as indicator of cardiovascular problems especially among people aged 50 and up. As a person ages, the large arteries become stiffer and buildup of plaque rises.
Diabetes and Hypertension
Hypertension is already described as a silent killer, a major contributing factor in stroke and heart attack, which when left undiagnosed can lead to more serious complications or even death. Hypertensive individuals are also at risk of developing peripheral vascular disease or the arteries in the feet and legs.
Paired with Diabetes and you’re a walking time-bomb with double the exponent primarily due to the fact that hypertension accelerates the development or aggravates the complications of the disease.
Studies suggest though that these two are not directly related to each other as cause and effect but are indirectly related to each other through obesity. One may precede the other.
Why they often go hand in hand is best explained by their obvious common denominator: poor health. The equation is very simple:
Poor health = Obesity (hypertension + diabetes)
Poor health leads to malnutrition or obesity. Type 1 diabetics are not necessarily malnourished but they are indeed “slimmer” and some of them develop hypertension as well. While individuals with Type 1 Diabetes are non-obese, they are still likely to develop diabetic nephropathy (diabetic kidney disease) and/or diabetic retinopathy (retinal damage). The former is caused by damaged kidneys leading to high blood pressure, while the latter can lead to blindness. The relationship between Diabetes and hypertension is easier recognized here.
Persons living with Type 2 Diabetes is a different case because of the very weak link. Thus, our equation. Obesity is a strong factor that triggers hypertension due to high levels of bad cholesterols, not to mention obese people are also at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
Okay, I made this equation up but figuring out their relationship is not rocket science. If doctors, scientists, and Sherlock do deductive reasoning and lengthy research, I can only do simple Math and draw answers from personal experiences.
Treatments for hypertension among Diabetics should be consulted to a doctor as one medication may contradict the other. Some hypertension drugs may also increase blood glucose level or cause side effects such as impotence. Commonly, high blood pressure in Diabetics is treated with angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE) and angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBS), which also help slow down if not prevent kidney disease.
Like Diabetes, hypertension can be controlled. It is pretty much about adapting healthy habits and going through a major lifestyle change; turn poor health to good health. How do you do it? It’s as simple as the equation:
- Monitor your blood sugar levels and blood pressure
- Drink alcohol in moderation or better yet, give it up
- Quit smoking
- Reduce consumption of salty foods
- Exercise regularly
- Drink water often
- Make a regular appointment with your doctor
Those who are living with Diabetes have an added responsibility of keeping their blood pressure in check to avoid the progression of cardiovascular problems and other serious complications.