Two out of every three adult diabetics have high blood pressure, according to the American Diabetes Association. The condition forces your heart to work harder, and your risk for heart disease, stroke and hardening of the arteries increases as a result. In most cases, poorly controlled blood sugar has a negative effect on your blood pressure, but there are a number of mechanisms by which your blood pressure can affect your blood sugar. In either case, controlling blood pressure is as important as controlling blood sugar for a diabetic.
Diabetes and Blood Pressure
In many cases of diabetes, blood sugar affects the blood pressure. When glucose stays in your bloodstream too long, it can act like a slow poison, according to the National Kidney Disease Education Program. Uncontrolled blood sugar can damage the nephrons, the functional units of your kidneys that play a role in regulating your blood pressure. This can cause high blood pressure. Diabetes and high blood pressure are the main causes of kidney disease. Because of the risks for hypertension and heart disease, the American Diabetes Association recommends diabetics strive for a lower blood pressure reading, 130/80 mmHg, than that of the general public. In rare cases, diabetes and low blood sugar can cause hypotension, or low blood pressure.
Although the link is somewhat controversial, a report by the Diabetes Action Research & Education Foundation said that both acute and chronic stress can trigger high blood pressure. Stress response can also increase your blood sugar. In cases of acute stress, the blood sugar’s rise is helpful. It fuels your brain to respond to the immediate crisis. However, ongoing stress can keep your blood sugar levels elevated, according to a report published by the Wellmark Foundation. Some public health authorities say the link between stress and blood pressure is unclear. However, the American Diabetes Association reports that both mental and physical stress raise blood glucose readings.
Two articles, one a clinical trial study published in “Diabetes Care” and the other an analytical piece published by the “Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine” found that relaxation techniques can help to lower blood pressure and blood glucose. They both reported that psychological factors, such as stress, play a role in the development of hypertension and in elevating blood glucose. The article in “Diabetes Care” said biofeedback-assisted relaxation therapy helped improve blood sugar control, in part by decreasing the indicators of chronic stress — including peripheral vasoconstriction, a hallmark of high blood pressure. The Cleveland Clinic piece suggests this therapy can be an important part of treatment of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of disorders centering around obesity. Both type 2 diabetes and hypertension are defining components of metabolic syndrome.
Keep Your Blood Pressure on Target
The American Diabetes Association advises you to work with your health care provider to find the right treatment if you have high blood pressure and are diabetic. A combination of lifestyle changes and medication may be in order. Medications like ACE inhibitors can help relax your blood vessels, and diuretics can help rid you of excess sodium. Eating a healthier diet, which includes eating more fresh fruits and vegetable, low-fat or fat-free dairy and reducing your salt intake, can also help.
- American Diabetes Association: High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
- National Kidney Disease Education Program; High Blood Pressure and Kidney Disease; July 2008
- “Diabetes Care”; Biofeedback-Assisted Relaxation in Type 2 Diabetes; Ronald A. McGinnis et al.; September 2005
- Diabetes Action Research & Education Foundation; Stress and Diabetes (Part 3);
- Wellmark Foundation; Stress, Diabetes, and High Blood Pressure
- “Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine”; The Effects Of Biofeedback in Diabetes and Essential Hypertension; Angele McGrady; July 2010