The inter-relationship between insulin resistance and hypertension

Drugs. 1993:46 Suppl 2:149-59. doi: 10.2165/00003495-199300462-00024.


Insulin resistance and compensatory hyperinsulinaemia commonly occur in patients with untreated essential hypertension. The coexistence of insulin resistance and hypertension can be viewed as a cause-effect relationship (insulin resistance as a cause of hypertension or vice versa) or as a noncausal association. Insulin can increase blood pressure via several mechanisms: increased renal sodium reabsorption, activation of the sympathetic nervous system, alteration of transmembrane ion transport, and hypertrophy of resistance vessels. Conversely, hypertension can cause insulin resistance by altering the delivery of insulin and glucose to skeletal muscle cells, resulting in impaired glucose uptake. For example, hypertension can impair vasodilation of skeletal muscle as a result of vascular structural changes and rarefaction, and increased response to vasoconstrictor stimuli. Also, the prevalence of muscle type 2b fibres (fast twitch fibres) may contribute to the development of insulin resistance. The common pathogenetic mechanism for both insulin resistance and hypertension could be activation of the sympathetic nervous system. This results in vasoconstriction, and may contribute to the genesis of vascular structural changes and increase the number of fast twitch fibres. Finally, hypertension and insulin resistance can be viewed as a noncausal association, according to the following hypotheses: 1) they may represent 2 independent consequences of the same metabolic disorder (intracellular free calcium accumulation), or 2) insulin resistance is a genetic marker and/or a pathogenetic mechanism of multiple metabolic abnormalities frequently associated with hypertension.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Hypertension / complications
  • Hypertension / physiopathology*
  • Insulin / physiology
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology*


  • Insulin