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Lowering Risk of High Blood Pressure and Diabetes

My doctor friend told me about his college roommate who moved to the city and started suffering from high blood pressure. The doctor told his roommate if he moved out of the city, his blood pressure would reduce. He did not believe him.

As urbanization expands and reshapes our landscapes, it continually lures people with what seems like convenience, opportunities, and prestige. However, the perks of city living come at a potential cost to our health. How does city dwelling impact the risk of hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes?

Hypertension in the Concrete Jungle:

Numerous studies have established a clear link between urban living and elevated blood pressure levels. The constant stressors of city life, including noise, air pollution, and the fast-paced nature of work, contribute to the development of hypertension (Brook et al., 2010; Chandola et al., 2008). Long-term exposure to these environmental stressors can lead to persistent high blood pressure, a significant risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.

Cityscape, Stress, and Diabetes:

The urban lifestyle often involves hectic schedules, long commutes, and the pressure to meet high professional and social expectations. Research has shown that chronic stress and a sedentary lifestyle, common in city dwellers, can contribute to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes (Hackett et al., 2014; Wirtz et al., 2014). The interplay of stress, lack of physical activity, and poor dietary habits in cities can pave the way for insulin resistance and diabetes.

Air Pollution's Role in Chronic Conditions:

Cities are notorious for their higher levels of air pollution, a well-established risk factor for both hypertension and diabetes. Fine particulate matter (PM) and other pollutants in urban air have been linked to insulin resistance and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes (Eze et al., 2015; Rajagopalan & Brook, 2012). Additionally, air pollution can contribute to the development and exacerbation of hypertension, further heightening the risk of cardiovascular issues.

Urban Food Environment and Diabetes Risk:

The urban food environment, characterized by easy access to fast food and a prevalence of high-calorie, low-nutrient options, plays a role in the rising rates of diabetes in cities (Bodor et al., 2010; Larson et al., 2009). Diets rich in processed foods and poor in nutritional value, coupled with a sedentary lifestyle, contribute to obesity and insulin resistance.

Sometime later my doctor friend’s roommate signed up for a retreat that happened to be at a camp in the country. He remembered his roommate's hypothesis and decided to test it. He checked his blood pressure before leaving, documented the result, and then packed his BP machine. He checked his BP after getting settled into his room at the retreat and thought it might be coincidental that it was slightly lower. He had had such results in the city, so he was not convinced the country setting had anything to do with it. But each time he checked it over the long weekend, it was consistently a little lower. He rationalized it was because he was enjoying himself and did not have the stress of work, etc. But he kept the results in the back of his mind and kept testing his roommate's hypothesis every time he traveled to the country and the results were the same, but it was always with a more relaxed situation, until he was called to speak at a conference held in a country.

Now he felt he could truly test the hypothesis because he would be working even while he was not speaking at the conference and life would be very much the same as the city except for the drive to and from work, which certainly was a daily hair-raising experience. And as his roommate had predicted, his blood pressure was even lower in the country while working. He decided he needed to test it one more time living in the city but working from home without the drive to and from work. With this last experiment, his blood pressure did not reduce. He was finally convinced his college roommate was right, country living would improve blood pressure.

While cities offer a plethora of opportunities, it's crucial to acknowledge the potential health risks associated with urban living. The elevated risk of hypertension and diabetes in city dwellers is a multifaceted issue involving stress, pollution, and lifestyle factors.

Maybe it is time for a sabbatical from your phone, computer, television, social media, and email to breathe and experience being immersed in the naturally fragrant atmosphere of nature!

To learn more about the 10 essentials for controlling high blood pressure and high glucose levels, schedule a FREE INTERVIEW today by clicking the link below or calling 479-363-6585.


Brook, R. D., Rajagopalan, S., Pope III, C. A., Brook, J. R., Bhatnagar, A., Diez-Roux, A. V., ... & Kaufman, J. D. (2010). Particulate matter air pollution and cardiovascular disease: An update to the scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 121(21), 2331-2378.

Chandola, T., Britton, A., Brunner, E., Hemingway, H., Malik, M., Kumari, M., ... & Marmot, M. (2008). Work stress and coronary heart disease: what are the mechanisms? European Heart Journal, 29(5), 640-648.

Hackett, R. A., Steptoe, A., & Kumari, M. (2014). Association of diurnal patterns in salivary cortisol with type 2 diabetes in the Whitehall II study. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 99(12), 4625-4631.

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Eze, I. C., Hemkens, L. G., Bucher, H. C., Hoffmann, B., Schindler, C., & Künzli, N. (2015). Association between ambient air pollution and diabetes mellitus in Europe and North America: systematic review and meta-analysis. Environmental Health Perspectives, 123(5), 381-389.

Rajagopalan, S., & Brook, R. D. (2012). Air pollution and type 2 diabetes: mechanistic insights. Diabetes, 61(12), 3037-3045.

Bodor, J. N., Rice, J. C., Farley, T. A., Swalm, C. M., & Rose, D. (2010). The association between obesity and urban food environments. Journal of Urban Health, 87(5), 771-781.

Larson, N. I., Story, M. T., & Nelson, M. C. (2009). Neighborhood environments: disparities in access to healthy foods in the US. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 36(1), 74-81.

Dadvand, P., Nieuwenhuijsen, M. J., Esnaola, M., Forns, J., Basagaña, X., Alvarez-Pedrerol, M., ... & Sunyer, J. (2016). Green spaces and cognitive development in primary schoolchildren. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(26), 7937-7942.

Kondo, M. C., Fluehr, J. M., McKeon, T., & Branas, C. C. (2018). Urban green space and its impact on human health. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(3), 445.


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