Having high blood pressure makes people almost 60% more likely to develop diabetes, according to a study providing the strongest evidence yet of a link between the 2 conditions.

Researchers studied the health records of 4.1 million UK adults who were free of both diabetes and blood pressure at the start. They found that every 20mm increase in systolic blood pressure (the top number in your blood pressure measurement) raised the risk of diabetes by 58%.

High blood pressure was linked with getting diabetes in a wide range of people, regardless of sex, age or body mass index (BMI).

It remains unclear whether one causes the other and research is needed to test whether lowering blood pressure can prevent or treat the condition.

The researchers also analysed the combined data from 30 previous studies which examined risk factors for diabetes, finding a 77% higher chance of developing diabetes for every 20mm increase in systolic blood pressure.

Professor Kazem Rahimi, deputy director of the George Institute for Global Health, called the study a potential game-changer in the understanding and treatment of diabetes, which affects one million Australians.

“We can’t say for certain that one causes the other, but this study helps to connect the dots,” he said.

“At a minimum we know for certain that the link exists. But is high blood pressure a cause of diabetes or just a risk factor? We still don’t know.”

He said researchers should use the results to examine whether lowering blood pressure is an effective treatment for diabetes.

Paddy Wood

Last Reviewed: 12/10/2015



Emdin CA, et al. Usual blood pressure and risk of onset diabetes. Evidence From 4.1 Million Adults and a Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2015;66(14):1552-1562. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2015.07.059