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Diabetics and High Blood Pressure

Being a Diabetic May Mean Struggling With Hypertension, Too

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Updated July 23, 2009

Diabetes and high blood pressure are closely related diseases. They occur together so frequently that they are officially considered to be “comorbidities” (diseases likely to be present in the same patient). Unfortunately, diabetes makes high blood pressure more difficult to treat, and high blood pressure makes diabetes even more dangerous.

How Are Diabetes and Hypertension Related?

Diabetes and high blood pressure tend to occur together because they share certain physiological traits –- that is, the effects caused by each disease tend to make the other disease more likely to occur. In the case of diabetes and high blood pressure, these effects include:

  • Increased Fluid Volume -- diabetes increases the total amount of fluid in the body, which tends to raise blood pressure
  • Increased Arterial Stiffness -- diabetes can decrease the ability of the blood vessels to stretch, increasing average blood pressure
  • Impaired Insulin Handling -- changes in the way the body produces and handles insulin can directly cause increases in blood pressure
Though these common biological traits partially explain why diabetes and high blood pressure are such a common pair, in many cases, the two diseases are likely to occur together simply because they share a common set of risk factors. Some important shared risk factors are:
  • Body Mass -- Being overweight significantly increases the risk of both diabetes and high blood pressure.
  • Diet -- High fat diets rich in salt and processed sugars are known to contribute to the development of organ problems that can lead to both diabetes and high blood pressure
  • Activity Level -- A low level of physical activity makes insulin less effective (which can lead to diabetes) and can contribute to the development of stiff blood vessels, increasing the risk of high blood pressure.
Preventive strategies for both high blood pressure and diabetes usually focus on these specific risk factors.

How Common is Hypertension in People with Diabetes?

Data from one large, widely referenced study on type 1 diabetes showed:

  • 5% of patients have high blood pressure within 10 years
  • 33% have high blood pressure within 20 years
  • 70% have high blood pressure by age 40
In studies of type 2 diabetes, data has shown that almost 75% of patients with kidney problems (a common complication) had high blood pressure. In those with type 2 diabetes but no kidney problems, the rate of high blood pressure was about 40%. Overall, when averaged across diabetes type and age range, about 35% of all people with diabetes have high blood pressure.

Learn More:

Sources:

  1. Epstein, M, Sowers, JR. Diabetes mellitus and hypertension. Hypertension 1992; 19:403.
  2. Hypertension in Diabetes Study (HDS): I. Prevalence of hypertension in newly presenting type 2 diabetic patients and the association with risk factors for cardiovascular and diabetic complications. J Hypertens 1993; 11:309.
  3. Sowers, JR, Epstein, M, Frohlich, ED. Diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease: an update. Hypertension 2001; 37:1053.

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