All About Blood Pressure And Diabetes

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Many people experience both blood pressure and diabetes. High blood pressure is two times more likely to develop in a person with diabetes than in a person without diabetes. If a person has high blood pressure and diabetes, he/she is also four times more likely to get heart diseases in comparison with a person who doesn’t have these conditions. 

Diabetes also increases the risk to develop hypertension. Roughly two out of three people with diabetes have blood pressure over 130/80 mmHg or higher. 

How is high blood pressure connected with diabetes? Read on to learn more and get tips to improve both conditions.

Metabolic Syndrome 

Metabolic syndrome (also known as “Syndrome X” or “insulin resistance syndrome”) is a cluster of conditions that occur together and increase your risk of heart diseases, stroke, and diabetes. The following five conditions are so-called “metabolic risk factors.” If you have at least three out of five, you have metabolic syndrome.

  • Excess fat around the waistline (40 inches or more for men and 35 inches or more for women -measured across the belly). Also known as abdominal obesity, the accumulation of fat in the stomach area is more risky than fat deposits in the hip area. Abdominal fat comes with an increase in risk for heart diseases. 
  • High triglyceride blood levels (above 150 mg/dl)
  • Low HDL (or “good”) cholesterol levels (less than 40 mg/dl for men or under 50 mg/dl for women)
  • High blood pressure (130/85 mm Hg or higher), even if you already take medication for high blood pressure 
  • High fasting blood sugar – greater than 100 mg/dl after fasting or if you already take diabetes medication

As you can see, metabolic syndrome includes high blood pressure and high blood sugar along with increased waistline and abnormal lipid profile. 

Metabolic syndrome also seems to come with an increased risk of blood clots and low-grade inflammation. This is a problem for most chronic conditions. Its also found with fatty liver, polycystic ovarian syndrome, gallstones, and sleep apnea. 

Metabolic Syndrome Risk Factors

About one in three American adults have metabolic syndrome. While certain risk factors such as age, ethnicity (Mexican Americans have the highest risk), and genetics can’t be changed, there are modifiable risk factors such as:

  • Excess weight. In many cases, excess weight is due to Western-type diets based on processed foods and/or lack of exercise. If weight gain is due to an underlying condition (i.e. hormonal imbalance), talk to your doctor. Some drugs also promote weight gain (i.e. some antidepressants, and anti-allergy drugs).
  • Stress. This is a key contributing factor to the problem. Recent research found that increased sympathetic tone (the branch of the autonomic nervous system involved in “fight or flight response”) may contribute to various aspects of metabolic syndrome. 
  • Sleep deprivation. Either short duration and poor quality has adverse effects on metabolism and hormones and increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. While obstructive sleep apnea is mostly associated with metabolic syndrome, other sleep disturbances cause stress, inflammation, weight gain, and have a negative impact on blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and heart function.  

Based on these risk factors, you can easily guess the best ways to prevent metabolic syndrome, including high blood pressure and high blood sugar. Here are some tips you can use, in addition to the medication prescribed by your doctor: 

  1. Avoid processed foods. Western-type diets are high in salt, sugar, unhealthy fats, and calories but very poor in nutrients. Instead, opt for homemade foods. Include plenty of fresh veggies and some low glycemic fruits. The DASH diet is effective to improve high blood pressure, while the Mediterranean and low carb diets can help manage high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, abnormal cholesterol levels, and excess weight. 
  2. Work out regularly. For best, long-term results choose exercises that you enjoy, because consistency is the key. Whether you choose to go for a walk every day or join a program at the gym, make sure you stay active. Exercise also helps relieve stress and improve your sleep. 
  3. Stress management. Dr. Benson from Harvard Medical School has a special technique that he suggests to help you relax and lower your blood pressure. It should be done twice daily for 10-20 minutes. Here’s how to do it: First, sit in a quiet place, and keep your eyes closed. Then, relax your muscles and silently repeat a word, sound, or short prayer of your choosing, over and over. When a thought comes into your mind, simply let it come and go. Let go and return to your chosen word, phrase, or sound. 
  4. Buy a pair of blue light blocking glasses for less than $20. Blue light blocking glasses have been found in research studies to improve your sleep. Start using them after sunset until you go to bed.