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Diabetes and High Blood Pressure

Both diabetes mellitus, known simply as diabetes, and high blood pressure are growing increasingly common in the United States and abroad. As lifestyles shift from active to sedentary and humans become increasingly disconnected from their food sources, a host of complex medical issues – like these two – are likely to continue affecting all of mankind. 

Both type I and type II diabetes have severe ramifications both for an individual and the healthcare system. 

  • The American Diabetes Association states that over 34 million Americans have either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. 
  • 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes each year. 

The statistics for Americans with high blood pressure are equally as alarming. The American Heart Association along with the Center for Disease Control (CDC)  tracks high blood pressure throughout the US’s various demographics. 

  • According to the American Heart Association, more than 100 million Americans have high blood pressure. 
  • High blood pressure is often referred to as HBP or hypertension. 
  • The CDC says that over half a million deaths in the United States cited hypertension as a primary or contributing cause. 
  • Hypertension costs the U.S. approximately $131 billion dollars each year. 

Endocrinologists, Internal Medicine Doctors and Primary Care Physicians have vast knowledge of the complicated and interconnected human body and are adept at treating illnesses such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Often, the two go hand-in-hand, meaning that many with either diabetes mellitus or hypertension often have or are at increased risk of developing the other. 

Treatments for Diabetes and High Blood Pressure. 

Both types of diabetes mellitus as well as high blood pressure are treatable, manageable, and sometimes even curable (in the case of hypertension). However, if left undiagnosed or untreated, each can cause extreme health complications and premature death. 

  • Diabetes
    • Type 1 diabetes is often a genetic disorder and sets in early on in life. This type of diabetes is often not caused by poor diet or excess sugar intake. Diabetic patients with type 1 diabetes will often utilize an insulin pump or become adept quickly at self-administering insulin shots. 
    • Type 2 diabetes is often caused by an unhealthy diet and develops over time. It can be controlled through diet and insulin monitoring and injection, when necessary. Diabetic patients usually live with type 2 diabetes for the rest of their lives. 
  • High Blood Pressure. Treatments for the cardiovascular condition vary because of the condition’s wide range of severity. The higher the systolic and diastolic numbers, the more at-risk one is of having further complications. 
    • Often, any amount of high blood pressure will incite doctors to prescribe medications and advise lifestyle changes to ensure that pressure doesn’t creep higher throughout life. Beta blockers are one course of treatment prescribed to many with high blood pressure for their effectiveness in controlling this medical condition. 

How do Beta blockers work? 

Beta blocker is an umbrella term for a host of prescription medications that work to block the adrenaline, or epinephrine, hormone from binding to the three beta receptors. According to the Mayo Clinic, beta blockers, also called beta-adrenergic blocking agents, slow down the entire cardiovascular system. By blocking beta receptors, beta blockers:

  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Cause the heart to beat slower
  • Prompt the heart to use less force when pushing out blood
  • Open up veins and arteries to improve blood flow

Common examples of beta blockers are: 

  • Atenolol
  • Metoprolol
  • Propranolol 
  • Nadolol 
  • Corgard
  • Tenormin 
  • Bystolic 

Beta blockers are taken orally and are usually prescribed after other routes of lowering blood pressure, like taking a diuretic, haven’t worked. Beta blockers may not work as well for some demographic groups and may not be as effective as a standalone treatment for lowering blood pressure levels. Again, treatment for blood pressure is very patient specific and your doctor will work with you to determine which method is best for your health condition. 

Why can Beta blockers be bad for someone with diabetes? 

Diabetics monitor their blood sugar levels on a routine basis, often taking a reading multiple times a day. In order to stay on top of their insulin needs, it’s crucial to receive an accurate reading of their blood glucose levels. Beta blockers may interfere with daily diabetes management in the following ways: 

  • Symptoms of having low blood sugar is a rapid heart beat, however, beta blockers actively work to lower the heart rate, potentially masking a key tell of dropping blood glucose levels. 
  • Beta blockers may be made less effective by certain foods or drinks, like orange juice, which many diabetics use to regulate blood sugar in a pinch. 
  • Someone without diabetes but who is taking beta blockers has a 28% higher chance of developing diabetes. 
  • A side effect of beta blockers is an increase in overall weight gain. This may worsen diabetes while also increasing the possibility of a coronary condition like a heart attack, arrhythmia or heart disease

A Balancing Act

These concerns make it all the more important to work with a doctor you trust. If beta blockers are your only option for managing high blood pressure, your Endocrinologist in Orlando will be able to provide tests, share lifestyle practices and consistent monitoring tips that keep you safe during use. 

Prevention is key to lowering the risk of developing both hypertension and type II diabetes. Leading an active lifestyle and scheduling routine wellness visits with your primary care doctor can prevent many diseases, including high blood pressure and diabetes. 

The Takeaway 

If you already have diabetes, it doesn’t mean that beta blockers can’t be a treatment option. It’s important to consult with your doctor and stick to a treatment and management plan, depending on your specific health condition. Our patient portal helps connect the UCF Health community with care providers who are experienced and knowledgeable. Use the online scheduling tool to book an appointment or sign up for newsletters that offer COVID-19 updates for patients. We strive to make health care accessible for all who want it.