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Lowering Blood Pressure May Reduce Risk for Type 2

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Lowering Blood Pressure May Reduce Risk for Type 2

Lowering blood pressure based on treatment recommendations may help prevent people from developing type 2 diabetes, according to new research published in the journal The Lancet — but what kind of drug you take to lower your blood pressure may be very important.

Managing blood pressure is considered to be a key element of controlling diabetes, especially for people with type 2 diabetes. That’s because people with diabetes are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease, and lowering blood pressure to recommended levels has been shown to reduce this risk. But there hasn’t been much research looking specifically at whether lowering blood pressure in people without diabetes has an effect on the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the first place. Since type 2 diabetes is characterized by insulin resistance — the inability of your body’s cells to effectively use insulin — it’s not immediately clear why lowering blood pressure would have any effect on the risk for type 2 diabetes. But for the latest analysis, researchers were interested in looking at whether such a connection exists — even if it’s not exactly clear why.

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To look at the effects of lowering blood pressure on developing type 2 diabetes, the researchers used data from studies published between 1973 and 2008. Each of these studies had at least 1,000 participants and compared the effect of a specific type of blood pressure-lowering drug against another drug type or a placebo (inactive pill). Participants in these studies who were known to have diabetes at the beginning of the study period were excluded form the latest analysis. A total of 145,939 participants from 19 different studies were included in the analysis.

During a median follow-up period of 4.5 years, 9,883 participants were diagnosed with new-onset type 2 diabetes. By comparing participants who took a blood pressure-lowering drug with those who didn’t — which was randomly assigned in each study — the researchers found that lowering blood pressure by just 5 mmHg reduced the risk for type 2 diabetes by 11% overall. Compared with taking a placebo, taking an ACE inhibitor or an angiotensin II receptor blocker to lower blood pressure — two of the most commonly used drugs for this purpose — reduced the risk for type 2 diabetes by 26%. But taking a beta blocker actually increased the risk for type 2 diabetes by 48%, and taking a thiazide diuretic increased this risk by 20%. Taking a calcium channel blocker had almost no effect on the risk for type 2 diabetes.

“Blood pressure lowering is an effective strategy for the prevention of new-onset type 2 diabetes,” the researchers concluded, while cautioning that different drugs appear to have different effects — namely, that ACE inhibitors or angiotensin II receptor blockers are most likely the best choice in blood pressure-lowering drugs for diabetes prevention. The researchers noted that their analysis, and others like it, could be used to officially designate certain blood pressure-lowering drugs as helping to prevent diabetes — a type of labeling that could help both doctors and patients select an appropriate drug when someone may have an increased risk for type 2 diabetes.

Want to learn more about high blood pressure? Read “Treating High Blood Pressure” and “Seven Little-Known Steps for Lowering Your Blood Pressure Naturally,” then see our “Blood Pressure Chart.”

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips

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A freelance health writer and editor based in Wisconsin, Phillips has a degree from Harvard University. He is a former Editorial Assistant for Diabetes Self-Management and has years of experience covering diabetes and related health conditions. Phillips writes on a variety of topics, but is especially interested in the intersection of health and public policy.

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