Diabetes and High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is twice as likely to strike a person with diabetes than a person without diabetes. Left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke. In fact, a person with diabetes and high blood pressure is 4 times as likely to develop heart disease than someone who does not have either of the conditions. About two-thirds of adults with diabetes have blood pressure greater than 130/80 mm Hg or use prescription medicines for hypertension.

What is high blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the artery walls. Each time the heart beats, it is pumping blood into these arteries. This results in the highest blood pressure when the heart contracts and is pumping the blood. High blood pressure, or hypertension, directly increases the risk of coronary heart disease (heart attack) and stroke (brain attack). With high blood pressure, the arteries may have an increased resistance against the flow of blood, causing the heart to pump harder to circulate the blood.

Two numbers are used to measure blood pressure. The number on the top, the systolic pressure, refers to the pressure inside the artery when the heart contracts and is pumping the blood through the body. The number on the bottom, the diastolic pressure, refers to the pressure inside the artery when the heart is at rest and is filling with blood. Both the systolic and diastolic pressures are recorded as "mm Hg" (millimeters of mercury).

Blood pressure is categorized as normal, elevated, or stage 1 or stage 2 high blood pressure:

  • Normal blood pressure is systolic of less than 120 and diastolic of less than 80 (120/80)

  • Elevated blood pressure is systolic of 120 to 129 and diastolic less than 80

  • Stage 1 high blood pressure is systolic is 130 to 139 or diastolic between 80 to 89

  • Stage 2 high blood pressure is when systolic is 140 or higher or the diastolic is 90 or higher

What are the symptoms of high blood pressure?

Often, people with high blood pressure do not have noticeable symptoms. If the blood pressure is greatly elevated, a person may experience the following. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Headache

  • Dizziness

  • Blurred vision

The symptoms of high blood pressure may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

Preventing high blood pressure

The American Diabetes Association recommends the following to help prevent the onset of high blood pressure:

  • Reduce your salt intake

  • Engage in stress-relieving activities 

  • Exercise regularly

  • Get to and stay at a healthy weight

  • Avoid excessive alcohol intake 

  • Stop smoking and avoid exposure to secondhand smoke 

  • Monitor your blood pressure

Treatment for high blood pressure

Specific treatment for high blood pressure will be discussed with you by your healthcare provider based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the disease

  • Your tolerance for specific medicines, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the disease

  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment may include exercise, a balanced diet, and quitting smoking, as well as medicines prescribed by your healthcare provider.

Online Medical Reviewer: Hurd, Robert, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Sather, Rita, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Turley, Raymond Kent, BSN, MSN, RN
Last Review Date: 9/1/2016
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