The Relationship Between Diabetes, Kidney Disease, and High Blood Pressure

A vicious cycle between the disease can see one lead to another without the person even realizing it's happening
November 20, 2020 Updated: November 20, 2020

Diabetes, kidney disease, and high blood pressure are a triple threat to many American’s who may be unaware. For those diagnosed with one of these health problems, it is crucial to understand the association between all three to reduce their risk of developing a second one of these conditions.

This interplay of conditions usually begins with diabetes, which can affect small blood vessels. This can then result in hypertension, and that can result in kidney disease. “It is essentially a vicious circle,” says Dr. Vivek Bhalla, past chair of the American Heart Association’s Kidney in Cardiovascular Disease Council.

The cycle begins with diabetes, causing kidneys to become less efficient at filtering blood and stiffening blood vessels. This leads to high blood pressure. High blood pressure accelerates kidney disease, which is similar to throwing kerosene on a fire. High blood pressure worsens and leads to many heart-related problems.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is estimated that 37 percent of adults in the United States who have been diagnosed with diabetes also have chronic kidney disease. The National Kidney Foundation also estimates up to 40 percent of people with Type 2 diabetes eventually will develop kidney failure.

Unfortunately, for many people, this cycle can go on without them even knowing. Most people with Type 2 diabetes don’t receive a diagnosis for about five years into having the disease. High blood pressure is widely known as the “silent killer,” and kidney disease has no symptoms until it is almost end-stage.

New Generation of Drugs

Research has shown that one way to stop this vicious cycle is through a new generation of diabetes drugs. One type known as SGLT2 inhibitors works by preventing blood sugar from being absorbed by the kidneys. Another type called GLP-1 receptor agonists mimics a hormone that helps the pancreas produce insulin. They both promote and support healthy blood glucose levels.

These drugs are “game-changing therapies,” said Dr. Janani Rangaswami, writer for AHA scientific statement on the drugs. Not only do the medicines dramatically cut deaths from kidney disease, but studies also show they can reduce rates of heart failure, stroke, and death from cardiovascular causes. Multiple trials looking at patients with varying risk profiles have shown these benefits pretty consistently.”

Of course, no drug is without potential side effects.

Health care professionals agree that many people can reduce the risk of disease by living a healthy lifestyle. A healthy diet is the best way to reduce the risk of diabetes. This is also a good way to reduce high blood pressure and prevent kidney disease. It is not easy to achieve, but it is possible, and it just may be the key to preventing all three conditions—diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney disease.

Mat Lecompte is a freelance health and wellness journalist. This article was first published on Bel Marra Health.