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The Party Crashers: Hypertension and Diabetes

Woman happy to be managing her diabetes and hypertension at San Fernando Community Health Center (SFCHC)

On its own, diabetes is a treatable, manageable disease.  Like an uninvited guest at a dinner party, it’s an unwelcome surprise, but not one you can’t handle.  It’s when that uninvited guest brings all of its hard-partying friends that you have a problem.  And one of the most destructive, worst influences on diabetes is hypertension.

You might know hypertension by its other, more common name, high blood pressure.  Diabetes can cause or worsen high blood pressure, because the body’s low amount of or resistance to insulin allows sugar to build up in the blood.  This causes the arteries to harden and get narrower, and as the heart works harder to pump blood through the arteries, blood pressure rises.  When that happens, more of diabetes’ delinquent friends are about to show up to do some real damage.

Hypertension’s Partners in Crime

It’s easy to forget that one of the most important places we have blood vessels is our eyes.  If these blood vessels are damaged by hardening and high blood pressure, they can leak into the eye and cause scar tissue to form, weakening vision in a condition called diabetic retinopathy.  About half the people who experience this will also develop fluid in the eye called diabetic macular edema (DME), which can cause blindness.  Glaucoma, or pressure on the optic nerve that leads from the eye to the brain, can also occur.

The blood vessels around our kidneys are also important.  If they’re damaged by hardening and high blood pressure, kidney function can be impaired in a condition called diabetic nephropathy.  This disease is so common, it’s the number one cause of kidney failure.  The kidneys’ job is to remove waste from the blood, so when the kidneys aren’t working, the waste builds up in the body – much like the unruly guest who leaves a mess for you to clean up.

Perhaps the most terrifying place to have blood vessel damage is the heart.  Weak blood vessels around the heart are unable to pump blood efficiently in a condition called congestive heart failure.  Narrowing of the blood vessels can be caused by deposits of fat called plaques, and if a plaque around the heart breaks, it can cause a heart attack.  Blood vessels from the heart also carry blood – and oxygen – to the brain, so if one of these blood vessels fails, a stroke can result.  Because of the effect diabetes has on blood vessels, people with diabetes are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke than people without it.

Keeping the Party Crashers Out

So how do you stop the unexpected guests from ruining your pleasant evening?  The answer is by doing many of the same things you do to keep diabetes from stopping by:

And if you need a hand, SFCHC can be your bouncer at the door with hands-on diabetes treatment and management programs like Care Circle.  With us by your side, you can keep hypertension and diabetes complications off the guest list.

Heather Hillstrom

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