Can Low Blood Sugar Cause High Blood Pressure?

Low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia, is defined as blood sugar levels of 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or lower. Symptoms of low blood sugar can include tiredness, sweating, and tingling lips. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, can also be a sign of low blood sugar.

Low blood sugar is especially common in people with type 1 diabetes, in which the pancreas creates little or no insulin. However, it can also occur in people with type 2 diabetes who take insulin or certain medications.

Doctor checking senior man's blood pressure

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Low Blood Sugar Can Increase Blood Pressure

Our body gets its energy to function properly from glucose, which is found in the carbohydrates we take in from the foods we eat. Insulin is responsible for pulling glucose from the bloodstream into cells, where it's used for energy.

When our blood sugar levels are low, our body tries to keep essential organs working by causing various changes, including an increase in heart rate and peripheral systolic blood pressure (pushing blood and nutrients back toward the lungs and heart). It also lowers central blood pressure (pushing blood and nutrients away from the heart to the limbs and smaller blood vessels).

Long-Term Effects of Low Blood Sugar

Repeat episodes of low blood sugar can cause permanent changes to blood pressure and increase the risk of hypertension in people with diabetes. Low blood sugar may also lead to long-term cognitive (intellectual) changes, cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heart rhythm), and heart attacks.

High blood pressure is the most common risk factor for stroke. It is also known to increase the risk of brain, heart, and kidney problems. Organ damage and cognitive dysfunction may also occur. Therefore, if hypertension remains unmanaged, serious events like stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, and dementia may occur.

Hypertension causes the arterial walls to experience an untenable amount of pressure, which results in the heart needing to work harder to pump blood. This can damage the heart muscle.

A small study of 22 people with type 1 diabetes linked low blood sugar to high blood pressure and found that hypoglycemia may lead to hypertension over time.

Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

Short-term high blood pressure that’s caused by low blood sugar may increase heart rate.

Other than that, high blood pressure is usually not accompanied by any warning signs or symptoms. The only way to know whether you have high blood pressure is by monitoring it.

How to Avoid Low Blood Sugar

Here are some tips for avoiding low blood sugar:

  • Eat regular meals and a balanced diet.
  • Carry healthy snacks.
  • Learn how to use an at-home glucose-testing device, or ask your healthcare provider for advice.
  • Keep a food diary, which can help you identify your triggers and modify your diet accordingly.

Sometimes, low blood sugar occurs even when you try to prevent it. Therefore, it's a good idea to carry glucose tablets or other fast-acting carbohydrates, such as half a banana or a couple tablespoons of raisins.

The 15–15 rule can help you raise your blood sugar slowly. It involves eating 15 grams (g) of fast-acting carbohydrates and checking your blood sugar levels after 15 minutes. If your blood sugar is not responding to the carbohydrates within 15 minutes, repeat the steps until your blood sugar is in your target range. It may be necessary to call your doctor or seek emergency medical help right away if you can't get your blood sugar under control.

Preventing low blood sugar is an important part of preventing hypertension, but it is not the only way. Talk to your healthcare provider about unique risk factors that may impact how you approach both blood sugar and blood pressure.

A Word From Verywell

Managing low blood sugar and high blood pressure can be stressful. However, it does not need to consume your entire life. There are many steps you can take to reduce your stress and the impact your diagnosis and the resulting anxiety may have on your life.

For example, you may want to look into recipes that help lower your high blood pressure and ways to manage your blood sugar to ensure it is at a healthy level. Look for manageable steps you can take, and walk through them with your healthcare provider. Together, you can confirm you are on the right track to managing your low blood sugar and the resulting high blood pressure.

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9 Sources
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