Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Solving Hypertension by Addressing Diabetes

"The Silent Killer."

Sounds scary, huh? Hypertension can be.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, earned the "silent" part of that nickname because most who have it aren't aware. Many with high blood pressure have no signs or symptoms.

Despite not announcing its presence to the host, high blood pressure can produce significant, detrimental changes, such as hardening of the arteries, an enlargement of the heart's walls, and narrowing of the blood vessels in the kidneys. Ultimately, these effects greatly increase the risk of heart disease, kidney disease, and a stroke. It's no wonder researchers referred to hypertension as the "number one attributable risk for death throughout the world [1]."

For the 70-plus million Americans who have hypertension, medication is a popular treatment. Medications are necessary in many cases. However, the underlying situation with hypertensive people may explain why the condition exists and why addressing high blood pressure directly might not be the most effective way to solve it.

High Blood Pressure: A Diabetic Undertone

While I love writing about the latest research, a key point about hypertension was established a while ago. The major points from the paragraphs below come from a 1988 research article from Standford University [2].

In that article, the author's main point on hypertension was this: people with high blood pressure typically have high blood glucose (hyperglycemia), elevated levels of insulin in their blood (hyperinsulinemia), and insulin resistance. 

Insulin resistance is the state where muscle and liver cells become less efficient in taking glucose from insulin. When glucose is not taken from insulin, it often stays in the blood. As a result, the pancreas typically responds by producing more insulin to store the extra glucose, which leads to high blood insulin.

Essentially, insulin resistance is the precursor for the other two, and all three of those conditions make up the metabolic situation found in type 2 diabetics. Therefore, the conditions typically found in hypertensive people are typically found in people who have or are developing diabetes.

To test the connection between insulin resistance, high blood insulin, and hypertension, a study was conducted where rats were fed high amounts of fructose, which is a known cause of insulin resistance [2]. To no surprise, the rats developed insulin resistance. However, they also were diagnosed with hyperinsulinemia and hypertension.

A coincidence? I think not.

Making Sense Out of the Diabetes and Hypertension Connection

There's a purpose to this rant on metabolism and hypertension: if you have hypertension, regulating your blood pressure with medications may not return you to a healthy state. There's a strong connection between the precursors of type 2 diabetes and hypertension. If you have high blood pressure, you may not have high blood glucose, but you could have insulin resistance and high blood insulin. Consider testing your blood insulin and insulin resistance. 

To solve the problem, your best route could be making anti-diabetic lifestyle changes, not taking hypertension medications. 

What are those lifestyle changes? Stay tuned.

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