Can diabetes cause hypertension? Absolutely! Due to increased levels of glucose in the blood, diabetes can cause damage to many parts of the body. Too much glucose will damage not only the heart, but blood vessels, kidneys and eyes, as well. Proper diet and exercise can help prevent or at least slow the damage to the body.
Heart, Blood Vessels and Cholesterol
The circulatory system includes the heart and blood vessels (arteries, capillaries and veins). While cholesterol occurs naturally in the human body, some foods we eat also contain cholesterol. Too much dietary cholesterol and fat will ultimately increase the levels of cholesterol in the blood.
Diabetes can further elevate cholesterol levels from continued elevated blood glucose. Too much cholesterol will clog blood vessels. Narrowing of the blood vessels is called atherosclerosis which makes it more difficult for blood to move through the arteries, capillaries and veins. This narrowing of the blood vessels requires the heart to pump harder to move the blood through the body.
Blood pressure is the measurement of the force exerted by blood on the walls of the arteries. Expressed in mmHg (millimeters of mercury), blood pressure has two components. The systolic pressure measures the pressure of the heart beating, while the diastolic pressure measures the pressure of the heart at rest. Blood pressure is recorded as systolic pressure over the diastolic pressure.
In general, a diabetic patient is especially prone to atherosclerosis which is the leading cause of increased blood pressure. The increase in blood pressure is a result of the decreased opening for the blood to flow through. Consider it like a hose with the flow restricted, where the same amount of water coming out of the restricted hose will be at a higher pressure than a hose with no restriction. Diabetes is often coupled with hypertension (high blood pressure). Cholesterol is but one of the causes of hypertension in diabetes.
Often kidney problems will also cause high blood pressure. A diabetic’s target blood pressure is 130/80 (in an otherwise healthy adult, the target is 120/70). Diabetes increases the risk of coronary events twofold in men and fourfold in women. Additionally, an estimated 60% of diabetics suffer from hypertension.
With the realization that diabetes can cause hypertension, proper diet for hypertension and exercise with sodium (salt) restrictions is an effective first step that a hypertensive diabetic must take to reduce blood pressure. Additionally, it has been proven that weight loss not only decreases blood pressure, it can also decrease blood glucose. Following a prescribed diet, such as the Low Glycemic Index diet is a very effective means of accomplishing the life style changes dictated by the disease.
Furthermore, moderate exercise (35 to 40 minutes of brisk walking) 5 to 7 days a week will also reduce blood pressure. It is strongly advised, however, that you consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
Finally, if you smoke, it is necessary to quit immediately. Generally, until the effects of your new lifestyle are fully evident, it may be necessary to also comply with drug therapy to decrease your blood pressure. In some cases, drug therapy becomes a permanent part of hypertension control.
So, the answer to “Can diabetes cause hypertension?” is certainly yes, but with proper monitoring, lifestyle changes and healthy eating habits, it can be controlled.