Skip to content

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

Blood-Pressure Drugs May Increase Diabetes Risk

By Dianne Partie Lange
WebMD Health News

March 29, 2000 (Lake Tahoe, Calif.) -- People who take a type of drug called beta-blockers to control their high blood pressure may want to discuss its use with their physician if they are overweight or have a family history of diabetes.

A study in the March 30 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine found that people taking beta-blockers had a 28% higher risk of developing diabetes. The researchers also confirmed that people with high blood pressure have 2.5 times the risk of developing diabetes as those with normal blood pressure.

"Lots of people are taking beta-blockers for other reasons [than high blood pressure], and there's strong evidence that they are beneficial to some patients with heart disease. However, [for] a patient with the potential to develop diabetes and [who] has no other reason to take beta-blockers, there may be other choices," study co-author Marion R. Wofford, MD, MPH, tells WebMD.

Diuretics, another class of antihypertension drug, were not associated with a higher risk of diabetes, Wofford says. Wofford is assistant professor of medicine in the division of hypertension at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.

From 1987 to 1989, more than 12,000 adults aged 45-64 were tested and assigned into two groups depending on whether they had high blood pressure. Antihypertension medications used by the almost 4,000 participants with high blood pressure were broadly classified into one of five categories: ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, calcium channel antagonists, thiazide diuretics, or other single agents. Nearly 1,500 subjects were not taking any medication.

Three years after enrolling in the study and again six years later, the subjects were tested for diabetes (with a fasting blood glucose test) and were questioned about their use of insulin or oral hypoglycemic drugs and/or a physician's diagnosis of diabetes mellitus.

After eliminating the effects of age, sex, race, and the use of other medications, the investigators found that "subjects who were taking a thiazide diuretic, ACE inhibitor, or calcium-channel antagonist were not at greater risk for the subsequent development of diabetes mellitus than were their untreated counterparts. In contrast, diabetes mellitus was 28% more likely to develop in subjects taking a beta-blocker than those taking no medication."

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Diabetic tools
Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
woman flexing muscles
10 strength training exercises.
Blood sugar test
12 practical tips.
Tom Hanks
Stars living with type 1 or type 2.
kenneth fujioka, md
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Middle aged person
Home Healthcare

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
type 2 diabetes
food fitness planner