The Relationship Between Low Blood Sugar and High Blood Pressure

By Irmanie Hemphill, MD, FAAFP
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
November 11, 2022

Key takeaways

  • Low blood sugar, also called hypoglycemia, is defined as having blood sugar levels below 70 mg/dL. 

  • Low blood sugar is common in people with diabetes, especially type 1 diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes are three times as likely than people with type 2 diabetes to have low blood sugar. 

  • When your blood sugar is low, your body releases adrenaline to help raise glucose levels, which can narrow your arteries and elevate your blood pressure. 

Blood sugar, also known as glucose, is an important source of energy for the cells in your body. It’s natural for blood sugar levels to change during the day.

But when blood sugar levels drop, the body responds by releasing certain hormones to help bring those levels back up, including adrenaline. Adrenaline increases your heart rate and constricts your arteries, which can cause high blood pressure

In this article, I’ll discuss the link between low blood sugar and high blood pressure. Then I’ll detail the symptoms and complications of high blood pressure. I’ll also explain the effects of low blood sugar and when to see a medical provider.

Can Low Blood Sugar Cause High Blood Pressure?

Yes, low blood sugar can lead to a rise in blood pressure. This happens when the body responds to low blood sugar levels by releasing adrenaline. This hormone causes your heart rate to increase and arteries to constrict, which can raise blood pressure levels.

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Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is often called “the silent killer” because it doesn’t usually cause symptoms, making it hard to detect and treat. In some cases, people with high blood pressure may experience a pounding feeling in their chest or head, lightheadedness, or dizziness

Complications of High Blood Pressure

Over time, high blood pressure can lead to serious complications, including: 

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
  • Endothelial dysfunction
  • Vascular inflammation
  • Vascular fibrosis
  • Arterial remodeling
  • Kidney damage or disease
  • Eye problems
  • Memory problems and dementia

People living with diabetes and high blood pressure have an even greater risk of developing heart disease.

Short-Term Effects of Low Blood Sugar

Not everyone experiences symptoms when they have low blood sugar. For those who do, short-term effects can include: 

Once you take action to correct your blood sugar, these symptoms should resolve within 48-72 hours.

Long-Term Effects of Low Blood Sugar

Over time, repeated episodes of low blood sugar can lead to serious complications, including a condition called hypoglycemia unawareness. In hypoglycemia unawareness, the body fails to produce signs of low blood sugar, increasing the risk of severe and life-threatening levels of low blood sugar.

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Tips to Avoid Low Blood Sugar

If you don’t have diabetes, taking certain actions can help to avoid low blood sugar levels:

  • Eat regular meals and don’t skipping meals
  • Ensure that your meals are balanced in terms of fat, protein, and fiber content
  • Don’t exercise close to bedtime
  • Avoid alcohol late at night
  • Don’t travel to locations at high altitude

If you take insulin or other medication to lower your blood sugar, these actions may help to prevent you from having low blood sugar:

  • Ask your provider about using a continuous glucose monitor (or CGM)
  • Ensure that you are eating enough carbohydrates to keep your blood sugar in the ideal range, especially when taking insulin
  • Eat a small snack before engaging in physical activity
  • Review your current medications with your provider

When to See a Medical Provider

If you have a family history of high blood pressure, talk to your healthcare provider about blood pressure screening and how often to do this.

If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, speak with your medical provider about how to avoid low blood sugar. Also know the signs of severely high blood pressure and severely low blood sugar, both of which warrant immediate medical attention. 

Signs of severely low blood sugar include:

  • Extreme weakness
  • Difficulty walking or seeing clearly
  • Confusion
  • Seizures

Signs of severely high blood pressure, also called hypertensive crisis, include:

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Frequently Asked Questions

Does blood pressure affect blood sugar levels?
Yes, changes in blood pressure can affect blood sugar levels. People with high blood pressure are also at higher risk of developing diabetes.
Is blood pressure related to blood sugar?
Blood pressure is the force exerted on your arteries and blood vessels when your heart pumps blood through the body. Blood sugar is an essential energy source for the cells in your body. The two are connected, as changes in one can affect the other. Over time, frequent episodes of low blood sugar can lead to lasting changes in your blood pressure.
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Irmanie Hemphill, MD, FAAFP

Dr. Hemphill is an award winning primary care physician with an MD from Florida State University College of Medicine. She completed her residency at Halifax Medical Center.