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Hypertension/High Blood Pressure Health Center

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Rising Blood Pressure Tied to Diabetes

Blood Pressure Increases May Make Women More Likely to Develop Type 2 Diabetes
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 10, 2007 -- Women may have a new reason to control their blood pressure: to help prevent type 2 diabetes.

Researchers today reported that women may be more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if their blood pressure rises substantially over the years.

Based on the findings, "women with increasing blood pressure levels should have their blood sugar (glucose) levels monitored," David Conen, MD, says in a news release.

Conen is a research fellow at Harvard Medical School, the Harvard School of Public Health, and Boston's Brigham & Women's Hospital.

Blood Pressure Facts

Here are seven basic blood pressure facts:

  • Blood pressure readings include two numbers: Systolic blood pressure (the first number) and diastolic blood pressure (the second number).
  • Normal blood pressure is systolic blood pressure (the first number) below 120 and diastolic blood pressure (the second number) below 80.
  • High blood pressure makes heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and other serious illnesses more likely.
  • Nearly a third of U.S. adults have high blood pressure. Many don't know it.
  • High blood pressure usually doesn't have obvious symptoms.
  • High blood pressure is especially common among African-Americans.
  • Smoking makes high blood pressure more likely. Exercise and a healthy diet make high blood pressure less likely.

Blood Pressure and Diabetes

Conen and colleagues studied a decade of data on more than 38,000 female health professionals in the U.S.

At the study's start, the women were at least 45 years old and didn't have heart disease,diabetes,cancer, or other major illnesses.

Every year, the women reported their blood pressure. The researchers also checked confirmed cases of type 2 diabetes among the group.

During the study period, a total of 1,672 women were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

The women were more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if their blood pressure moved up one or more notches on the researchers' list of categories:

  • Optimal: systolic blood pressure below 120; diastolic blood pressure below 75
  • Normal: systolic blood pressure of 120-129; diastolic blood pressure of 75-84
  • High normal: systolic blood pressure of 130-139; diastolic blood pressure of 85-89
  • Hypertension: systolic blood pressure of at least 140; diastolic blood pressure of at least 90

Overweight women with hypertension were the most likely to develop type 2 diabetes. But leaner women were also at risk if their blood pressure rose out of the optimal range.

Age, weight, smoking, family history of diabetes, and other factors didn't fully explain the results, which appear in today's online advance edition of the European Heart Journal.

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