Diabetes and High Blood Pressure: What You Need to Know
Here are some pretty sobering facts. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop high blood pressure as those without diabetes. Additionally, an individual who has both diabetes and high blood pressure is four times more likely to develop heart disease as someone who doesn’t have either condition.
In other words, if you’re among the more than 34 million Americans living with diabetes, you need to pay special attention to your blood pressure. In fact, next to monitoring and controlling your blood sugar with proper testing and treatment, few things are more important than making sure your blood pressure remains within the safe range.
What is high blood pressure?
Every time your heart beats it moves blood through your arteries. Blood pressure is measured as the force created as that rushing blood pushes against your artery walls. When blood is pumping through your heart and vessels with excessive force that’s considered “high blood pressure”.
How is high blood pressure measured?
Blood pressure is measured with two numbers - systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. Systolic pressure refers to the force of blood against the artery walls as the heart contracts sending blood rushing through the vessels. Diastolic pressure refers to the pressure inside the artery as the heart is at rest and filling with blood. Blood pressure is shown as systolic pressure over diastolic pressure. For example, a normal blood pressure reading would be in the vicinity of 120/80 (read as 120 over 80).
To be more specific, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), these are the numbers you should know when it comes to blood pressure:
- Healthy blood pressure is below 120/80
- Early hypertension (high blood pressure) is between 120/80 and 140/90
- Hypertension (high blood pressure) is measured at 140/90 or higher
The dangerous relationship between diabetes and high blood pressure
High blood pressure is a serious condition for anyone who has it. But for those living with diabetes, particularly Type 2 diabetes, the dangers are amplified. According to the ADA, the combination of Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure can significantly raise the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Remember, we opened this post by citing a Johns Hopkins Medicine online article stating that the combination of diabetes and high blood pressure raises the risk of heart disease four-fold. That article goes on to say that roughly two-thirds of adults with diabetes have a blood pressure greater than 130/80, which means the vast majority are living in the pre-hypertension or hypertension category.
Along with fueling the development of heart disease, the combination of diabetes and high blood pressure can also increase the likelihood of diabetes-related complications, including kidney disease, neuropathy, and diabetic retinopathy, one of the most common causes of blindness in the United States.
Simply put, if you’re diabetic, you need to take high blood pressure seriously.
How do I know if I have high blood pressure?
High blood pressure has been coined “the silent killer” for good reason. Often, there are no telltale symptoms. You can feel perfectly fine and still be suffering from hypertension. If your blood pressure becomes extremely elevated, you may notice symptoms including headache, lightheadedness, and blurry vision, however, there’s also a good chance you won’t feel any symptoms at all.
The only sure-fire way to know what your blood pressure is, is to measure it yourself or see your doctor. The most affordable and convenient way to pick up a high-quality blood pressure monitor is from an online supplier. They are relatively inexpensive, usually between $60 and $120, depending on the features you want and whether you prefer to measure your pressure around the upper arm or wrist. Also, when visiting your physician, checking your blood pressure is almost always a matter of routine.
How to prevent or even reverse high blood pressure.
Though studies point towards a connection, it’s still not entirely known if there is a causal relationship between diabetes and high blood pressure (one directly contributing to the other). That being said, it seems uncanny that the ways to better manage both are virtually identical. It also seems more than coincidental that obesity, inactivity, and a diet high in fat and sodium contribute to both the onset of diabetes and high blood pressure.
This is actually good news for those living with diabetes, because it means that controlling your blood pressure is a lot like controlling your blood sugar. Many of the same lifestyle choices you make to manage your diabetes will also go a long way to helping reduce your blood pressure. These include:
Exercise, specifically aerobic activity, such as a brisk walk for 30 or 40 minutes each day, can help lower blood pressure and strengthen the heart muscle. Physical activity may also reduce arterial stiffness, which happens to all of us as we age but is often accelerated in those with Type 2 diabetes. So, there you have it. That fitness regimen you use to help control your blood sugar is also a great way to keep your blood pressure in check.
Guess what? It’s a lot like a diabetes-healthy diet. Choose wholegrain breads and cereals. Limit sugars (like you’re doing anyway). Cut down on your salt intake. Limit whole-fat dairy products. Avoid overdoing it with alcohol. Basically, make healthy dietary choices and you’ll reduce your risk of hypertension.
Obesity is a major contributing factor to both diabetes and high blood pressure. If you’re carrying too many excess pounds, losing some of that weight will help you better manage both conditions.
You probably already know that tension and anxiety can do a number on your blood sugar. They can also contribute to high blood pressure. Consistent participation in stress-reducing activities like yoga, meditation, and Tai Chi can help lower blood pressure as you’re doing them and over the long term.
Good control over your blood sugar
As someone living with diabetes, nothing is more important than controlling your blood sugar each and every day. Nearly everything else that has to do with your heath begins and ends with managing your diabetes. If you are following your doctor-prescribed diabetes testing and treatment plan, including lifestyle and dietary recommendations, you’re probably already reducing your risk of high blood pressure. Remember to test your blood sugar according to schedule, using a glucose meter and test strips or a continuous glucose monitoring system (CGM) prescribed by your doctor.
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