Hypertension is a common long-standing condition affecting almost one in four Canadians. In this condition, the pressure of blood against your blood vessel wall is higher. If left unattended, hypertension can cause various complications such as stroke and heart attack. 

High blood pressure, when co-exists with diabetes, worsens various diabetes-related complications such as chronic kidney diseases. Diabetes has a special mention here as it often occurs alongside hypertension. According to Statistics Canada almost more than half of Canadians with diabetes also have high blood pressure. 

Both conditions are aspects of metabolic syndrome, a disorder that involves cardiovascular diseases and obesity. They also share common causes and risk factors. Besides, they also contribute to worsening each other’s condition and symptoms. It is thus understandable that ways of managing hypertension and diabetes overlap.

Here is more about the link between these conditions, how to recognize them, and how to reduce the adverse effects of both.

Symptoms

Most of the time, hypertension does not show any symptoms unless it becomes severe to damage your organs. It is thus commonly known as a silent disorder. However, when present, some common hypertension symptoms are:

  • Headache
  • Nosebleed
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Breathlessness
  • Visual changes
  • Blood in the urine

In addition, if you have diabetes, you may also have the following symptoms:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased appetite
  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Weight loss
  • Dryness of skin
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Wounds that do not heal
  • Frequent urinary tract infection

You can read more about type 1 and type 2 diabetes here.

Causes

Studies have shown that hypertension and diabetes are often present together and share the mentioned common causes:

  • Inflammation
  • Obesity
  • Insulin resistance (A condition where the body cells do not respond to insulin adequately)
  • Oxidative stress (Altered balance between harmful free radicals and antioxidants)

Link Between Diabetes and Hypertension

An individual with diabetes cannot produce enough insulin, or the insulin does not work effectively (insulin resistance). 

Insulin is a hormone that helps your body cells to absorb glucose from the food you eat and use it as energy. In the absence of insulin, glucose cannot enter your body cells and accumulates in the blood. When blood with high sugar travels through the body, it damages your blood vessels and organs such as the kidneys and heart.

The heart, kidneys, and blood vessels are responsible for managing blood pressure. If they undergo damage, your blood pressure can increase.

A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology concluded that people with hypertension are at a higher risk of diabetes. The link between these conditions may be related to processes that affect them both, such as inflammation.

Risk Factors

Diabetes and high blood pressure share the following risk factors:

  • Consuming an unhealthy diet
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking tobacco
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Low vitamin D levels

Also, having a family history of hypertension increases the risk of having high blood pressure, and a family history of diabetes increases the risk of diabetes.

Besides, having hypertension increases the risk of diabetes and vice versa.

Other factors increasing the risk of high blood pressure are:

  • Eating a high-fat diet
  • Consuming too much sodium
  • Excess alcohol consumption
  • Low potassium levels
  • Suffering from other disorders, such as kidney disease, sleep apnea, or inflammatory arthritis

Effects

High blood glucose levels may elevate your blood pressure. Here are three ways it does so:

  • Fluids in your body increase as diabetes affect the kidneys.
  • Blood vessels lose their ability to stretch.
  • Insulin resistance triggers processes that promote hypertension.

According to the American Diabetes Association the combination of diabetes and hypertension is lethal and can increase your risk of developing diabetes-related complications, such as eye and kidney disorders.

Besides, long-term hypertension can speed age-related brain disorders, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This is because the blood vessels of the brain are highly prone to hypertension-related damage.

Having either or both these conditions may also increase the risk of the following conditions:

  • Stroke or heart attack
  • Kidney disorders
  • Peripheral vascular diseases
  • Damaged blood vessels of the eyes, resulting in altered vision or loss of vision

Making healthy lifestyle choices can thus help to prevent both diabetes and hypertension. Further, individuals with diabetes can lower the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disorders by managing their blood sugar levels.

Remedies

Improving your lifestyle is the best you can do to manage diabetes and hypertension.

Some healthy lifestyle behaviors are:

Being Active

Physical activity lowers blood sugar and helps control blood pressure. It also relieves stress and improves your mood. Experts advise 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercises a day for five days a week or 150 minutes in a week. Moderate-intensity activities include walking, running, jogging, or swimming.

However, if you plan to start an exercise regimen for the first time, it is always best to consult your doctor to understand what suits you the best.

Maintain A Healthy Weight

For overweight people, losing even a few pounds can help lower the risk of diabetes and hypertension.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) losing 3% to 5% of your weight can improve your blood pressure readings. And losing around 5% to 7% of your weight can prevent prediabetes from turning into diabetes.

You can read more about type 1 diabetes and weight loss here.

Eat Healthy

If you have high blood sugar and blood pressure levels, your doctor may advise the following:

  • High-fibre foods, including whole grains
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Avoid unhealthy fats, such as animal fats
  • Limit the intake of sugar and salt

Your doctor may also advise the DASH diet to control your blood pressure readings. You can read more about the hypertension and DASH diet here.

Besides, you may have to monitor your carbohydrate intake and monitor blood sugar levels to ensure that you meet your target range.

Quit Smoking

Studies have now established that smoking tobacco can increase your risk for both diabetes and hypertension.

Besides, smokers with high blood glucose levels have the risk of the following complications:

  • Eye disorders
  • Kidney or heart diseases
  • Poor blood flow
  • Nerve damage

If you have diabetes and/or hypertension, speak to your doctor about ways to quit smoking.

Limit Alcohol Intake

Excess alcohol consumptions increase the risk of:

  • Blood sugar spikes
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Weight gain

The recommended alcohol intake is no more than one alcoholic drink for women/day and no more than two alcoholic drinks for men/day. One alcoholic drink corresponds to one 5-ounce glass of wine, 12-ounce beer, or 1.5-ounce serving of spirits.

Besides, mixers are also high in carbohydrates and calories and thus unhealthy. Sparkling water is a better option than a sweetened soda.

Medications

Along with the mentioned lifestyle modifications, your doctor may also prescribe medications. For diabetes, insulin, or non-insulin medications are helpful based on your condition.

Commonly used medications for hypertension are beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, and diuretics. Your doctor will decide the best suitable treatment based on your condition. 

Final Thoughts

Hypertension and diabetes often co-exist, and they also share some causes and risk factors. If left unattended, both the conditions may increase the risk of complications such as stroke and kidney failure.

Lifestyle changes, such as eating healthy and being active, may help control blood sugar and blood pressure levels. If you have hypertension with diabetes, consult your doctor to keep them under control. Your physician will help you with the best suitable lifestyle plan and medications if needed.

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