Blood Pressure May Predict Incident Type 2 Diabetes in Healthy Women
It's commonly known that high blood pressure and diabetes often go hand in hand. For a long time, however, nothing was known about the causal relationship of the two. New data from the extensive European Women's Health Study demonstrates that high blood pressure significantly increases the risk of diabetes.
The Women's Health Study was a prospective study. It included nearly forty-thousand women, all of whom were healthy at the beginning of the study. The researchers tracked the women for over ten years, with a second evaluation of blood pressure four years into the study. They were especially interested in examining the link between high blood pressure and the development of type 2 diabetes.
The researchers found that women who had or developed high blood pressure were far more likely to become diabetic than their cohorts who had normal blood pressure. Even when things such as weight, body mass index, smoking, family history, etc. were taken into account, the relationship between high blood pressure and diabetes still remained strong. This indicates that high blood pressure is a risk factor for diabetes and can be used, along with other factors, as a predictor of who will develop the disease.
These results are important in defining the relationship between high blood pressure and diabetes. Knowing that high blood pressure can directly lead to diabetes changes how doctors think about and address high blood pressure. To begin with, physicians now know that the blood glucose levels of patients with high blood pressure should be carefully monitored. This may allow them to catch cases of diabetes or prediabetes in this group well before they would have otherwise. The longer diabetes goes untreated, the more damage it does to the body. Often, people don't come to the attention of a doctor until they begin to experience serious symptoms, when a lot of damage has already been done. If doctors find these cases just as they're emerging, treatment can be started immediately and some of the damage avoided. If it's caught even earlier, during the prediabetes stage, before it's turned into full-blown diabetes, it is often possible to stop the progression. Furthermore, knowing that they are at a higher risk of diabetes might motivate patients with high blood pressure to take a more active part in their treatment. Diet and exercise can be very helpful in controlling blood pressure, but it is often difficult to get patients to stay with this regimen. Perhaps the specter of diabetes, added to the danger of heart attacks and strokes, will help people to stay motivated and make positive lifestyle changes.