What Are the Causes of High Blood Pressure in Diabetics?
It is assumed that diabetics don’t produce enough insulin, but in type 2 diabetes, that might not be the case. In fact, many type 2 diabetics have high levels of this hormone in the blood mainly due to the cells resisting the efforts of insulin to usher glucose in, creating what is known as insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance is one of the causes of hypertension, which may explain why blood pressure goes up soon after the onset of type 2 diabetes.
To maintain life, many processes must take place at the cellular level. In order to perform these tasks, all our cells are equipped with tiny mechanisms that work in unison. When one of these mechanisms fails, it unleashes a series of cellular disorders and disease appears.
How blood pressure is created in your body
Blood pressure is created by your heart pumping blood into your large arteries. So far, no problem, since healthy arteries are large enough to allow the flow of blood through them. But the large arteries branch out into many tiny arteries, called arterioles.
Because they are so tiny, these arterioles produce a resistance to the flow of the blood coming from the large arteries. Thus, in the early stages of primary hypertension, blood pressure is due to the heart pumping blood to the arterioles, not to the amount of blood.
The cell electrical system
Every living cell in our body has its own electrical system, which is powered by sodium, a substance that conducts electricity when dissolved in water. This electrical system is the sodium-potassium battery, which gets its energy from food. This battery is necessary to move the following mechanisms in our cells:
- The sodium-potassium pump. This pump is in charge of maintaining an adequate proportion of sodium and potassium inside the cell. It does that by moving sodium out of the cell and potassium into the cell. This is the reason why almost all unprocessed foods have more potassium than sodium. The electricity produced by this pump is the force that moves our muscles, organs, and many other body functions.
- The calcium pump. The function of the calcium pump is very important in hypertension. This pump keeps the calcium level inside the muscle cells low. Too much calcium inside the cell will cause smooth muscle cells to contract, pressing the arterioles and as a result causing blood pressure to rise. In addition, a high level of calcium inside the cells interferes with their ability to let glucose in, causing high levels of glucose and insulin in the blood. For this pump to work properly it requires adequate amounts of magnesium.
- The acid pump. This pump is in charge of moving hydrogen outside the cell to maintain the proper level of acid. Maintaining the proper level of acid is important because hydrogen ions affect many metabolic processes, especially those involving energy.
Unfortunately, these cellular processes can be disturbed by an imbalance between sodium and potassium. The malfunction of any of these pumps will cause many health problems such as hypertension and insulin resistance.
The importance of potassium
Potassium is a very important nutrient in our bodies. Among its functions we find the following:
- It keeps the sodium-potassium properly charged, which is basic to move the three pumps in cells.
- It helps normalize the hormones that regulate blood pressure in the kidneys.
- It maintains a regular heartbeat and proper fluid balance in the cells
- It helps in the conversion of glucose to glycogen for energy storage.
Best sources of potassium are fruits and vegetables.
The importance of magnesium
Magnesium is part of over 300 functions that take place in our body. In this article, however, we’ll concentrate in the reactions it performs that affect blood pressure.
- Magnesium is necessary to cause the calcium pump work properly which helps regulate blood pressure.
- Magnesium acts as a vasodilator, relaxing and dilating the arteries, allowing blood to flow more freely.
- Is one of the most important minerals for the prevention and reversal of insulin resistance, which is an underlying cause of hypertension.
The importance of calcium
Calcium is also a very important mineral required for health bones, strong teeth, muscle contraction, blood clotting and the release of important neurotransmitters. It also is necessary in the following cellular processes:
- Adequate levels of calcium are necessary for the calcium pump to work properly. Too much calcium in the smooth muscle cells cause then to contract, putting pressure in the arterioles and raising blood pressure.
- High levels of calcium inside the cells decrease the ability of the cells to let glucose in when insulin is available. Paradoxically, adequate calcium levels in the body keep excess calcium from entering the cells and low calcium levels cause a buildup of calcium inside the cells. Low fat dairy products are a good source of calcium.
High levels of insulin have also been shown:
1. To increase stimulation of our sympathetic nervous system, which causes additional constriction of the arteries, raisin blood pressure.
2. To stimulate the growth of the smooth muscles of the arteries, which causes blood pressure to rise.
A recap of what the causes of high blood pressure in diabetics are:
- High levels of sodium and low levels of potassium in the blood cause the sodium-potassium battery to malfunction, causing high blood pressure.
- A malfunction of the sodium-potassium battery causes the rest of the pumps in the cells not to carry out adequately the required cell activities.
- When the level of calcium inside the cell is too high, the cell ability to accept glucose from the blood in response to insulin is decreased, leading to high levels of glucose and insulin in the blood. Low levels of calcium and magnesium are responsible for this malfunction.
- Insulin resistance prevents potassium from getting inside the cells, creating an imbalance between sodium and potassium. This imbalance leads to high blood pressure.
- Chronic elevated levels of insulin stimulates constriction of arteries and growth of smooth muscles in the arteries, causing blood pressure to rise.
A few words about chromium
Chromium is crucial for diabetics because it promotes the uptake of glucose into the cells. A deficiency in chromium creates insulin resistance; insulin resistance prevents potassium from entering the cells leading to high blood pressure. Whole grains, meats, and brewer’s yeast are the best sources of this mineral.
Although other conditions such as obesity and lack of exercise also lead to primary hypertension, insulin resistance by itself can be a major factor in triggering high blood pressure in diabetics. To prevent or reverse these health conditions eat fruits and vegetables as they have the proper balance between sodium and potassium. Low fat or non-fat dairy products are a good source of calcium. Vegetables, whole grains, and brewer’s yeast are a good source of magnesium and chromium. and above all, consult with your doctor to discard any other causes of hypertension such as kidney disease.
To your health!
Emilia Klapp,R.D., B.S.