Oxford study says there is a link between diabetes and high blood pressure

by Barbara Hewitt on October 1, 2015

People who have high blood pressure are almost 60% more likely to develop diabetes, according to a research study of more than four million people.

The Oxford University study provides the strongest evidence yet of a link between the two conditions in the face of other conflicting and inconclusive reports.

High-Blood-PressureStudy author Professor Kazem Rahimi, based at the Oxford Martin School at the university, said that this study now reliably shows the connection between high blood pressure and diabetes and it could lead to new insights and strategies for treating and reducing the chances of developing diabetes.

“This is potentially a game changer in the understanding and treatment of diabetes. Diabetes affects more than 400 million people worldwide and we know that diabetics are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks, stroke and heart failure, said Rahimi.

“Confirming this connection reliably provides new hope for those people and new avenues for research. We can’t say for certain that one causes the other, but this study helps to connect the dots, showing that if you have high blood pressure there is a significantly greater chance of developing diabetes,” explained Rahimi. “Understanding the link will help us better communicate risks to patients and can provide another motivation for patients and doctors to aim for tight blood pressure control.”

Professor Rahimi said that the link between hypertension and fatal heart issues had been well documented, but the connection to diabetes had been less clear as previous smaller studies have varied significantly or even found no link. “Now we have something clear to go on,” he pointed out.

The study, which has been published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC), looked at the health records of 4.1 million adults in the UK who were initially free of diabetes and cardiovascular disease and found that for every 20 mm mercury increase on the measurement gauge, in systolic blood pressure there was a 58% higher risk of developing diabetes.

For every 10 mm mercury increase in systolic blood pressure there was a 52% higher risk of developing diabetes and higher blood pressure was also associated with a higher risk of new onset diabetes in a wide variety of groups of individuals, including men and women of all ages as well as well as those with a normal weight, the overweight and obese individuals.

The relative association between blood pressure and diabetes decreased as body mass index (BMI) and age increased, but absolute effects were higher in the elderly and overweight and Professor Rahimi said the research also pooled together 30 prior studies that examined risk factors for diabetes.

“There were similar results in this section of the research with a 77% higher chance of getting diabetes for every 20 mm increase of mercury in systolic blood pressure. Using the two complementary approaches has given us even greater confidence in the results,” said Rahimi.

Professor Rahimi said researchers could now examine the causal relationship between blood pressure and diabetes.

“At a minimum we know for certain that the link exists, but is high blood pressure a cause of diabetes or just a risk factor? We still don’t know,” said Rahimi. “In particular researchers can now look at whether lowering blood pressure is an effective treatment or reduces the risk of getting diabetes. These are exciting results and I look forward to seeing further developments because of this research.”

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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