Diabetes and Hypertension
New Study Uncovers the Link Between Diabetes and High Blood Pressure.
It’s no secret to most of us living with diabetes that there is a definite link between our disease and an increased risk for a number of health complications, including cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.
In fact, according to John’s Hopkins University, high blood pressure is twice as likely to strike a person with diabetes as it is to strike a person without diabetes. It’s also a fact that about two-thirds of individuals living with diabetes have blood pressure greater than 130/80 mm Hg or are using prescription medication to help manage their hypertension.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, normal blood pressure is defined as less than 120 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury) systolic pressure and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic pressure.
High blood pressure for adults is defined as:
140 mm Hg or greater systolic pressure
90 mm Hg or greater diastolic pressure
The guidelines for prehypertension are:
120 - 139 mm Hg systolic pressure
80 - 89 mm Hg diastolic pressure
So, you can see the vast majority of adults with diabetes are already battling high blood pressure or are on the cusp of developing it. There’s no question that there is a connection between the two conditions. However, until recently the root of this connection wasn’t entirely understood.
The Link Between Hypertension and Diabetes
This is huge news for the diabetes community. On February 1, 2022, a team of collaborating scientists in Brazil, Germany, Lithuania, Serbia, The United Kingdom, and New Zealand published the results of an international study using laboratory rats that uncovered the link between high blood pressure and diabetes. So what is it?
The glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor (GLP-1). Tada!
Scientists have known that GLP-1 is a receptor protein released from the wall of the gut after eating which prompts the pancreas to increase the production of insulin in order to control blood glucose levels. But what this team of scientists was able to uncover is that GLP-1 also stimulates a small sensory organ known as the “carotid body” which is located in the neck.
The carotid body was identified as the convergent point where GLP-1 acts to control both blood sugar and high blood pressure simultaneously. This is coordinated by the nervous system which is instructed by the carotid body. Until now, this link had never before been clearly identified.
The Significance of Locating the Link.
It’s tremendously significant for a number a reasons. For starters, cases of diabetes and hypertension continue to increase around the world and the situation needs to be addressed. This new information just might be the game-changer science has been seeking for quite some time.
Professor Rod Jackson, epidemiologist from the University of Auckland said, “We’ve known that blood pressure is notoriously difficult to control in patients with high blood sugar, so these findings are really important because by giving GLP-1 we might be able to reduce both sugar and blood pressure together, and these two factors are major contributors to cardiovascular risk.”
There is such enormous optimism because most patients currently facing both diabetes and hypertension remain at life-threatening risk for cardiovascular disease. Even when prescribed medication, the risk doesn’t entirely abate because most drugs only treat the symptoms and not the root causes of high blood pressure and high blood sugar. This new data could change all of that.
Drugs Targeting The GLP-1 Receptor Are Already Being Used to Treat Diabetes
Many drugs, such as Rybelsus®, have already been approved to treat diabetes by targeting GLP-1. Currently, these drugs are not recommended as the first choice of medicine for treating diabetes. However, based on the study’s findings these drugs may actually work on the carotid bodies to help control hypertension. Further studies in humans are being planned to bring this new discovery into practice and, perhaps, provide those with both diabetes and high blood pressure new and better treatments.
Do You Have High Blood Pressure?
If you’re living with diabetes your blood pressure is probably checked regularly when you meet with your diabetes physician. It’s also a good idea to own your own blood pressure monitor in order to keep closer track on your numbers. They’re relatively inexpensive - anywhere from about $50 to $100 depending on the features.
The thing with blood pressure is that much like diabetes, there are often few physical symptoms. In cases of greatly elevated blood pressure, you might experience:
– Blurry Vision
If you’re feeling any of these symptoms (which may also be signs of blood sugar imbalance), see your doctor right away.
How Can You Lower Blood Pressure
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), there are a number of things you can do to better manage blood pressure. These include:
– Reduce your salt intake
– Try stress-reducing activities like meditation or yoga
– Get in 150 minutes of exercise each week
– Lose excess weight
– Avoid excessive alcohol
– Stop smoking
Treating High Blood Pressure
How high blood pressure is treated must be determined by your physician and care team, and will depend on your age, overall health, level of hypertension, and tolerance of medications.
Like anything to do with treating diabetes and its associated conditions, the first step to dealing with hypertension is to sit down with your doctor.
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