The Hypertension–Diabetes Continuum

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Hypertension and type 2 diabetes are both common chronic conditions that affect a major proportion of the general population. They tend to occur in the same individual, suggesting common predisposing factors, which can be genetic or environmental. Although the genes causing hypertension or diabetes await elucidation, the environmental causes of these diseases are well known. Obesity and physical activity are the 2 leading factors that predispose to both diseases. Individuals with abdominal obesity are likely to develop lipid abnormalities and elevation of blood pressure and glucose. In time, hypertension and diabetes ensue. Because of the shared etiology, there is substantial overlap between hypertension and diabetes. In the Hong Kong Cardiovascular Risk Factor Prevalence Study, 40% of the subjects in the community had either raised blood pressure or raised blood glucose. Only 42% of people with diabetes had normal blood pressure and only 56% of people with hypertension had normal glucose tolerance. The presence of hypertension or diabetes should alert the clinician to the possibility of the other condition. Obesity, lipid abnormalities, raised blood pressure, and glucose are all components of the metabolic syndrome. The syndrome therefore implies a pathologic process, which is potentially reversible in the early stages. Previous efforts targeting smoking, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia have started to bear fruit. However, obesity is on the increase in developed and developing countries. It is now time to focus on obesity and the metabolic syndrome, which require more a public health than a pharmacologic approach.

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