Doctors have long wondered how high blood pressure and diabetes are related, because the two often appear together, especially in obese patients. Now, after following 38,000 midlife women for 10 years, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School report that constantly elevated blood pressure, or hypertension, doubles your risk of developing diabetes, regardless of your BMI. More surprising, the risk of diabetes goes up if your blood pressure increases over time—even if it stays under the hypertension threshold.
The two problems may have a common cause, says study author David Conen, MD, a research fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Potential culprits include high levels of inflammation in the body, he says, or a malfunction in the blood vessels’ inner lining, allowing blood cells to leak into surrounding tissue and damage it.
Protect yourself: If you have mild hypertension or are at risk for this problem, get tested for diabetes. You can help prevent onset of diabetes with lifestyle changes: Increase your physical activity, lose excess weight, limit salt, and stub out those cigarettes for good.