Can Blood Pressure Medications Help Diabetics?

Can Blood Pressure Medications Help Diabetics?

Review Shows Blood Pressure Medications Help Diabetics

The American Diabetes Association estimates that two-thirds of people with diabetes have high blood pressure or take blood pressure medication. Left untreated, high blood pressure in diabetic patients can lead to significant health problems. Researchers may have found a way to help. A new review, published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests that type 2 diabetics taking high blood pressure medications are less likely to suffer from heart attacks, strokes or die early.

The review’s author explained the importance of the findings in a HealthDay News article:

“Stroke, heart attack and other circulatory diseases are the biggest cause of premature death and disability in people with diabetes,” said review author Dr. Kazem Rahimi, deputy director with the George Institute for Global Health at the University of Oxford in England. “Any intervention that safely reduces the risk, even if modestly, will have an important effect.”

To obtain the findings, review researchers analyzed 40 studies, and just over 100,000 participants. Studies were randomized and controlled. Some diabetics received blood pressure medications and some didn’t.

Researchers found that each decrease of 10 mm Hg in the systolic blood pressure reading (the top number) lowered participants’ risk of early death by 13 percent. Risk of heart attacks was reduced by 11 percent, coronary heart disease by 12 percent and stroke by 27 percent. Other benefits, such as a drop in the risk of albuminuria (too much protein in the urine) and retinopathy (an eye condition) were also noted. Diabetic participants with lower blood pressure levels experienced smaller positive gains than those with high blood pressure.

While Dr. Rahimi indicated that lowering high blood pressure in diabetics was generally good he did not go so far as to recommend all diabetics begin taking blood pressure medications:

Can Blood Pressure Medications Help Diabetics?
Diabetics concerned about their blood pressure should consult their doctor to determine the best course of treatment.

It’s clear that lowering high blood pressure is good for diabetics, Rahimi said, but it’s less certain whether patients “whose blood pressure is not very high should be treated with blood pressure-lowering drugs and how far their blood pressure should be reduced. It is also less well-known how blood pressure-lowering affects a range of other potential health complications such as diabetic eye disease.”

Blood pressure-lowering drugs are not harmless. While they’re often inexpensive, sometimes costing just pennies per pill, they can cause side effects such as dizziness and fatigue.

Other medical experts were more bullish on the findings:

Dr. Bryan Williams, a professor of medicine with University College London who studies high blood pressure and diabetes, said the review findings suggest “we should consider lowering blood pressure further than recommended in current guidelines” to reduce the risk of stroke.

Williams, who wrote a commentary accompanying the review, added: “If I was a younger diabetic, I would certainly want my blood pressure well controlled, always below 140/90 mm Hg and below 130/80 mm Hg if possible. As patients get older, they sometimes tolerate such aggressive treatment less well, but it is worth trying to reach a level of blood pressure that is as low as tolerated without symptoms.”

Diabetics concerned about their blood pressure should consult their doctor to determine the best course of treatment. For questions about blood pressure medications and their potential risks, please visit any Owens Healthcare location and speak with one of our pharmacists.