Hypertension and diabetes often occur together — and both can be damaging to the kidneys.

People with diabetes are at greater risk of developing hypertension, and vice versa. That makes sense, as the two conditions share many of the same risk factors — obesity, smoking, lack of regular exercise, and a diet high in sodium and fats. In fact, a connection was noted in a 2012 study, which reported that between 50 percent and 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes also had high blood pressure, or hypertension.

Despite the crossover, detection and diagnosis of the two conditions is very different. Because it rarely displays symptoms, hypertension is usually diagnosed during a routine medical exam. Patients with elevated blood sugar, on the other hand, notice an increase in urination, a general feeling of fatigue, blurred vision, and excessive thirst.

A blood pressure reading of 130-139 over 80-89 classifies as stage 1 hypertension. Meanwhile, anyone with a glucose level of 126 mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter) or higher has diabetes. Because of how each condition affects the arteries, both elevate a patient’s risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.

The Effect of Diabetes and Hypertension on Blood Vessels

Hypertension develops when blood vessels narrow and harden, increasing the pressure within the arteries as blood pumps through them. Heightened blood pressure in the arteries can be especially damaging to the kidneys because these vital organs clean the blood of unwanted substances while circulating needed nutrients, such as protein. This helps maintain a healthy balance of water, salt, and minerals in the body and, importantly, regulates blood pressure.

But if the blood enters the kidneys with greater than normal force, the kidneys work harder to filter the blood. Over time, this could lead to chronic kidney disease and other serious health problems.

Diabetes also harms blood vessels. Someone with diabetes cannot process glucose normally, leading to a build-up of glucose in the bloodstream. Blood with an excessive amount of glucose prevents the vessels and kidneys from functioning properly.

A person with diabetes should have their blood pressure checked at least four times a year by a doctor. For someone with both conditions, it’s recommended that they check their readings with home monitors and report the findings to their doctor.

Preventing and Treatment Diabetes and Hypertension

Maintaining a proper weight, staying active, and eating a healthy diet may prevent the onset of diabetes and high blood pressure, and are especially important lifestyle habits for people who already have hypertension, diabetes, or both.

In addition to medication, people with hypertension and diabetes can make lifestyle changes that lower blood pressure and manage blood glucose levels. These would include:

Exercising more frequently. Moderate aerobic exercise, such as walking or swimming, for 150 minutes each week aids in managing blood pressure and diabetes. Patients who haven’t exercised in a while should consult with their doctors before starting a workout program.

Following the DASH Diet. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH diet) emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as lean meats like chicken and fish. On this diet, people with hypertension and diabetes eat less red meat and processed foods high in salt, sugar, and fats. Limiting alcoholic drinks is also helpful, since alcohol contributes to weight gain that could raise blood pressure and blood glucose levels.

Giving Up Cigarettes. Smoking has been linked to hypertension, heart disease, and kidney disease. What’s more, smokers with diabetes are also at a higher risk of retinopathy, an eye disorder that could result in loss of vision.

We Treat Hypertension and Kidney Disease

The physicians and staff at Southern Massachusetts Dialysis Group focus solely on the kidneys, providing treatments and consultations to patients with kidney disease and hypertension. If you’d like to discuss ways to treat your high blood pressure and reduce your chances of diabetes, make an appointment with us today.