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Thursday, 30 March, 2000, 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK
Blood pressure screening 'may reveal diabetes'

Diabetes is linked to heart problems
People with high blood pressure are two and a half times more likely to develop diabetes, suggests new research.

This adds to evidence that GPs should check hypertensive patients closely for other signs of the disabling disease.

The research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, also found that people taking beta-blocker medication for heart problems seemed also to be at higher risk of developing diabetes.

However, a top UK diabetes expert said this should not discourage patients from taking these sorts of drugs - as the risks from the heart problems greatly outweighed those from diabetes.

The study was carried out at Johns Hopkins University in the US, looking at 12,550 people aged 45 to 64 who either had heart disease or had some of the risk factors for developing it.

None had diagnosed diabetes to begin with.

Six years later, 1,146 of them had been diagnosed as diabetic. Of these, approximately half had high blood pressure.

Monitoring blood pressure could reveal diabetes risk
Among those with high blood pressure, those taking beta blockers were 28% more likely to develop diabetes than their counterparts who were not on medicaton.

Professor Stephanie Amiel, of King's College London, suggested that closer monitoring of middle-aged and older patients with blood pressure problems might lead to earlier detection of diabetes in some instances.

She said: "What we know is that diabetics who have high blood pressure have a far greater risk of developing complications.

"So if you diagnose it early, the hypertension can be better managed and complications reduced."

Keep taking the tablets

She stressed that the news about beta-blockers did not mean people should stop taking the drugs.

"I certainly wouldn't use the information in this study not to give beta-blockers to people with a medical indication - that would be a dangerous message."

Type II diabetes normally starts in middle-aged and older people.

Diabetics are more at risk from heart problems, disabling eye conditions and circulation problems.

Studies have shown that careful management of blood pressure and blood sugar levels can reduce these "complications".

The study also contradicts a commonly-held belief that some diuretic drugs - also useful in treating certain heart conditions - could also increase the risk of developing diabetes.

In fact, those taking these drugs appeared to have a lower risk of diabetic problems.

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