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.
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
- 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:
- Pale complexion
- Fast heartbeat
- Irritability or confusion
- Hunger or nausea
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.
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
Signs of severely high blood pressure, also called hypertensive crisis, include:
- Blurred vision
- Chest pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Not responding to stimuli
- Severe headache
- Shortness of breath
Manage Low Blood Sugar and High Blood Pressure with K Health
Using virtual primary care with K Health, you can check your symptoms, manage your blood sugar and blood pressure online, and if needed, text with a healthcare provider in minutes.
Frequently Asked Questions
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Low Blood Glucose. (2021.)
Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia). (2021.)
How to Treat Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia). (2021.)
Hypoglycemia: The neglected complication. (2013.)