Diabetes and Hypertension: What Makes it Life Threatening?
“It is not the stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.”
– Hans Selye
It is a condition wherein the body fails to properly maintain the blood glucose concentration at a safe range. This may be due to various reasons, including a lack of production of the pancreatic hormone insulin, a lack of function of the secreted insulin or even a genetic predisposition to produce non-functional insulin. The traditional form of diabetes is caused by environmental influences such as a poor diet, unhealthy lifestyle, excess consumption of predisposing foods etc.
There are three major forms of diabetes that affect blood sugar levels, conveniently named Type 1, Type 2 diabetes and Gestational diabetes. Each of these forms comes with its own list of causes, symptoms and complications. And all are equally daunting.
Quick fact: Over 17% of people affected with diabetes globally are from India. This fact is even more concerning when considering the fact that Indians comprise 17.5% of the global population!
This is the infamous coup de grâce of stress. Hypertension is more commonly known as high blood pressure, which ironically does not describe its major symptom. It is a chronic condition in which the blood pressure in a patient’s arteries remains persistently elevated (typically >130/80 mmHg) but does not directly cause any complications. In fact, the chronic (long-term) nature of this condition leads to more fatal conditions such as strokes, infarctions and other cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) when coupled with comorbidities. Numerous faulty lifestyle factors such as stress, excess body weight, smoking, alcohol consumption etc., play a major part in developing this condition (nearly 95% of reported cases). So, for the most part, it is a self-induced ailment that can just as easily be prevented.
Quick fact: Hypertension is often called the “silent killer” due to its lack of apparent symptoms. If you lead a stressful life, you might want to get checked out often.
Diabetes and Stress
Managing a diabetic condition is a lifelong process, and it doesn’t come without its fair share of tension. Feelings of stress send the body into a fight-or-flight state by releasing stress hormones which can directly affect the blood glucose concentration, and in turn, worsen underlying diabetes, thus forming a painful loop. The key chemical player that fuels this stress response is glucose, and you may realise why that might be a serious problem for sufferers of combined diabetes and hypertension.
Stress is not limited to mental exhaustion but includes physical exertion as well. A person may stress themselves out by performing rigorous exercise to manage their diabetes, for instance. The main objective of avoiding stress, especially in a condition like diabetes where the body lacks resources to fuel a response, is to prevent the release of stress hormones.
Quick fact: Age is not a solid risk factor for stress-related high blood pressure. Recent studies have indicated that nearly 1 in 4 adults aged between 20 and 44 are susceptible to high blood pressure (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020).
How does diabetes lead to hypertension?
We’ve looked at stress, diabetes and hypertension separately, and now it’s time to put them all together. There are few explanations as to why an underlying condition of diabetes can lead to hypertension or vice versa. In fact, hypertension and Type 2 diabetes are both aspects of a larger metabolic syndrome. This means that they are caused by a number of interlinked symptoms that affect one another. This is largely due to the fact that the two diseases share common risk factors, including:
- Obesity (being overweight).
- Inflammation (response to germs).
- Oxidative stress (accumulation of toxic free radicals).
- Insulin resistance (gradual inability to respond to insulin).
That being said, there are three notable ways in which high glucose levels can increase blood pressure:
- Blood vessels show decreased elasticity (inability to stretch).
- Fluid dysregulation becomes more prominent.
- Insulin resistance may invoke hypertensive symptoms.
Overall, the body does not have sufficient glucose reserves to provide energy to working cells and accumulates in the bloodstream instead. This leads to widespread damage to various organs and blood vessels, and particularly so if the patient suffers from high blood pressure.
“Does hypertension lead to diabetes?”
Diabetes and hypertension are linked, and hypertensive people are prone to Type 2 diabetes, but they are not necessarily direct causes of one another.
Symptoms of Diabetes and Hypertension
The signs and symptoms of the combined disease are similar to the common symptoms of the individual diseases:
| Excessive thirst
| Frequent need to urinate
| Chest pain
| Persistent weakness
| Nose bleeds
| Fasting glucose level >126 mg/dL
| Blood pressure >130/80 mmHg
Quick fact: You can test for high blood pressure easily at home using a device called a sphygmomanometer. Quite the tongue-twister, but it is readily available and even easier to use.
The overall effect of diabetes and hypertension can greatly increase the chances of CVDs, peripheral vascular diseases, kidney diseases and strokes. They also leave patients susceptible to problems in the blood vessels – for instance, blood vessels in the eyes leading to blurry vision or even vision loss.
Quick fact: Research indicates certain kinds of birth control can induce hypertension on one end, and underlying hypertension can cause complications during pregnancy on the other. It’s a vicious circle, ladies, so make sure to take some time off more often than not.
Common Treatment Strategies for Diabetes and Hypertension
Most physicians will prescribe ACE inhibitors for high blood pressure. This medication also slows the progression of kidney diseases caused due to diabetes. Due to this and other similarities for the combination of diabetes and hypertension, doctors generally lean towards the use of a common drug. Other treatments involve simple fluid regulation intravenously or by drugs called diuretics (water pills).
Diabetes and hypertension are continual fields of study where new facts about both are unravelled often. They are linked and are a part of much bigger problems that lead to their life-threatening complications but can also easily be prevented by observing a healthy lifestyle. Various experts in the field, including Twin Health, have repeatedly expressed the importance of recognising the two as individual as well as combined problems. And we must do our best to not invite any trouble from either.
But to make sure you’re headed in the right direction, book a consultation to speak directly with our health experts at Twin and get a personalized treatment to reverse your Diabetes. Our team of world-class doctors advise what’s best for you with the help of precision nutrition, precision sleep and precision activities, prescribed just for you.