A healthy lifestyle may help combat the higher risk for hypertension (high blood pressure) that is associated with type 2 diabetes, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
High blood pressure affects more than half of all adults in the United States, and an even higher proportion of people with type 2 diabetes. Hypertension has also been found to be common in children and teenagers with obesity. Studies suggest that in people without diabetes, lowering blood pressure based on current guidelines may reduce the risk for developing type 2 diabetes — at least when certain drug treatments for blood pressure are taken. There are many steps outside of drug treatments that may help lower blood pressure, including consuming plant foods rich in flavonoids (such as berries, apples, pears, and red wine), eating enough whole grains, incorporating herbs and spices into your diet, and — for some people with type 2 diabetes — following a low-calorie diet.
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For the latest study, researchers looked at data from a large nationwide study in Spain involving over 450,000 participants ages 18 to 64, all of them employed and insured by an occupational risk prevention company. The study looked at several lifestyle-related factors, including body-mass index (BMI, a measure of body weight that takes height into account), sleeping habits, alcohol intake, smoking, and physical activity. The average age of participants was 44.5 years old, and two-thirds of participants were men. Only 3.2% of participants had diabetes, while 29.3% had hypertension.
Lifestyle factors strongly linked to hypertension risk in those with diabetes
The researchers found that having diabetes was linked to 44% higher risk for hypertension, even after adjusting for all available lifestyle-related factors. (Participants with both diabetes and hypertension — about 42% of those with diabetes — were also 6% more likely to experience mild kidney function impairment than those with only diabetes.) But despite the higher overall risk for hypertension in people with diabetes, this risk was highly dependent — in fact, almost entirely dependent — on lifestyle factors included in the study. Participants with diabetes who followed what the researchers deemed to be an “optimal lifestyle” — having a normal body weight, sleeping enough and regularly, drinking alcohol sparingly or not at all, not smoking, and getting regular physical activity — had exactly the same risk for hypertension as participants without diabetes. Out of these factors, the lifestyle elements that had the largest impact on reducing hypertension risk were a normal body weight (51% lower hypertension risk) and getting regular physical activity (21% lower hypertension risk).
“Diabetes is positively and largely independently associated with hypertension risk,” the researchers wrote. “Yet, a healthy lifestyle can attenuate this association.” More research is needed, though, to help determine how actual lifestyle-related changes — not just existing behaviors or characteristics — may help reduce the risk for hypertension in people with diabetes.