The other day I was asked a question if diabetics were more susceptible to developing high blood pressure? After doing a some research, it appears that diabetes and hypertension frequently occur together and there seems to be a direct correlation between the two.
Certain factors such as obesity, inflammation, oxidative stress, even insulin resistance are thought to be the common causes, but recent advances have shed new light as to what causes high blood pressure and what should be done to make it more manageable.
Physical activity plays an important protective role in the two diseases and knowing the common causes and disease mechanisms allows for a more effective and proactive approach in managing both diabetes as well as high blood pressure, so lets take a closer look!
What Causes Hypertension?
High blood pressure that has no known cause is termed primary hypertension (or essential hypertension). This is more common than secondary hypertension, which has an identified cause such as chronic kidney disease.
Primary hypertension is unlikely to have a specific cause but multiple factors, including blood plasma volume and activity of the renin-angiotensin system, the hormonal regulator of blood volume and pressure – and primary hypertension is affected by environmental factors.
Secondary hypertension has specific causes – that is, it is secondary to another problem. One example, thought to be the most common, is primary aldosteronism, a hormone disorder causing an imbalance between potassium and sodium levels.
Common reversible causes are things such as excessive intake of alcohol and use of oral contraceptives, which can cause a slight rise in blood pressure. Also, hormone therapy for menopause (while it might be slight) has also been shown to raise blood pressure, so make it appoint to chat with your doctor.
Additional examples also include:
- Kidney disease
- Pheochromocytoma (a cancer)
- Cushings syndrome (which can be caused by use of corticosteroid drugs)
- Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (disorder of the adrenal glands, which secrete the hormone cortisol)
- Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland)
Symptoms Of Hypertension:
Most people with high blood pressure have no signs or symptoms, even if blood pressure readings reach dangerously high levels, which can be kind of scary.
A few people with high blood pressure may have headaches, shortness of breath or nosebleeds, but these signs and symptoms aren’t specific and usually don’t occur until high blood pressure has reached a severe or life-threatening stage.
Ask your doctor for a blood pressure reading at least every two years starting at age 18. If you’re age 40 or older, or you’re age 18-39 with a high risk of high blood pressure, ask your doctor for a blood pressure reading every year. Blood pressure generally should be checked in both arms to determine if there is a difference.
Hypertension, What Should Your BP Be?
Blood pressure readings vary, but most people with diabetes should have a reading of no more than 140/80. The first, or top, number is the systolic pressure, or the pressure in the arteries when your heartbeats and fills the arteries with blood. The second, or bottom, number is the diastolic pressure, or the pressure in the arteries when your heart rests between beats, filling itself with blood for the next contraction.
When it comes to preventing diabetes complications, normal blood pressure is as important as good control of your blood sugar levels.
Lifestyle changes are extremely important for both treatment as well as prevention of high blood pressure, and they can be as effective as today’s top drug treatments. The added advantage is that there are additional benefits for your entire body.
If you feel as though you need to chat with someone, make an appointment with your local dietitian. I know we have one right in my endocrinologist’s office and she is always willing to help. They can be extremely valuable especially if your lost and do not know where to start.
The lifestyle changes that are recommended by experts and shown to reduce blood pressure are as follows:
- Salt restriction – typical salt intake is between 9 and 12 g a day and modest blood pressure reductions can be achieved even in people with normal levels by lowering salt to around 5 g a day – with a bigger effect in hypertensive people
- Moderation of alcohol consumption – expert guidelines say moving from moderate to excessive drinking is “associated both with raised blood pressure and with an increased risk of stroke”
- Reducing weight and maintaining it – hypertension is closely correlated with excess body weight, and weight reduction is followed by a fall in blood pressure
- Regular physical exercise guidelines say “hypertensive patients should participate in at least 30 min of moderate-intensity dynamic aerobic exercise (walking, jogging, cycling or swimming) 4 to 5 days a week” so make it appoint to get moving once your doctor as said it’s Ok.
Smoking can also raise blood pressure, and because of all the additional negative side effects and health risks giving up is also a lifestyle change people with high blood pressure can definitely benefit from.
Diabetics can reduce their risk of developing hypertension as well as complications due to hypertension by eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, maintaining a healthy body weight, and regularly monitoring their blood glucose levels and keeping them under control. Also make it appoint to get your blood pressure checked regularly. Early treatment can help to get your blood pressure down to healthy levels, ideally less than 130/80 mmHG so make it appoint to chat with your doctor especially if you have a family history or if you’ve had elevated blood pressure readings in the past.
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