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Managing blood pressure could eliminate several health risks for diabetics

Researchers say curbing high blood pressure could be the key to avoiding organ failure

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With over 30 million Americans suffering from diabetes, knowing the ins and outs of the disease is incredibly beneficial to those currently struggling with it.

A new study conducted by researchers at Rutgers University -- the largest of its kind -- explored the ways extreme hypertension in African-Americans with diabetes can be avoided if blood pressure can be taken under control.

Though lead researcher Irina Benenson noted just one to two percent of those with high blood pressure experience hypertension -- typically in the brain, heart, or kidneys -- those with diabetes are at an even greater risk.

“Our study found that both diabetics and non-diabetics with hypertensive emegencies had similar rates of severe injury to target organs,” said Benenson. “Combined with the fact that diabetics with hypertensive emergency also had significantly higher levels of blood pressure, this suggests that the occurrence of severe damage to vital organs is not because of just diabetes but because of the accompanying severely elevated blood pressure.”

Understanding the risks

The researchers had nearly 2,000 participants involved in the study -- 783 who had diabetes and 1,001 who did not. All of the participants were patients at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey, and each person visited the hospital for hypertensive emergencies from June 2013 through May 2016.

The researchers examined the patients’ electronic medical records and compared the results from non-diabetic patients with the diabetic patients to look for significant clinical characteristics.

The researchers found that patients with diabetes accounted for 519 hypertensive emergencies, while those without diabetes accounted for 264 hypertensive emergencies. In total, patients with diabetes accounted for over 52 percent of all hypertensive emergency visits.

Managing high blood pressure

Benenson noted that the numbers from the study were even higher for those with both high blood pressure and diabetes.

“Given the fact that the presence of severely elevated blood pressure is the strongest driver of damage to vital organs in individuals with diabetes, the most important intervention for preventing hypertensive emergencies would be to better manage patients’ blood pressure,” Benenson said.

However, according to the American Heart Association (AHA), there are several ways for people with high blood pressure to try to keep their numbers under control.

The association suggests eating a healthier, more well-rounded diet, while avoiding things that are high in salt. Fruits and vegetables, skinless poultry and fish, and whole grains are all heart-healthy foods. The organization says those with high blood pressure should limit red meat, salt, saturated fats, sweets, and alcohol.

Maintaining a healthy weight and having a regular exercise regimen are also good ways to keep a healthy blood pressure. Ninety to 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week is recommended to stay active and avoid any flare-ups.

Quitting smoking, reducing stress, and taking medications properly can also contribute to a healthier lifestyle and a better blood pressure. The AHA also suggests an at-home blood pressure monitor as a way to keep an eye on blood pressure on a daily basis; consumers can record the readings in a blood pressure journal to keep track and monitor treatments.

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