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Hypertension 101

Also known as “high blood pressure,” hypertension is one of the leading causes of strokes and heart disease, and the worst part is that it often shows no symptoms. People with diabetes need to be especially watchful, as they are more likely to develop hypertension at some point and suffer its adverse consequences.

Blood pressure

“Blood pressure” refers to the pressure blood exerts on artery walls. It’s an essential part of the process that carries oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.

Hypertension

Hypertension occurs when blood pressure is above normal levels and forces the heart to work harder to make blood circulate. Over time, this excess effort can damage arteries and cause a wide range of health problems including stroke, heart disease, eye conditions, erectile dysfunction, atherosclerosis (the buildup of fat plaques in arteries) and kidney disease.

Target values

For people with diabetes, blood pressure should be below 130/80 mmHg. The first number represents systolic pressure, or blood pressure during a heartbeat, and the second measures diastolic pressure, which is the pressure between heartbeats. It’s important to note, however, that blood pressure can fluctuate for many reasons. If, on one occasion, you get a test result that’s too high, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you suffer from hypertension.

Possible causes

Hyperglycemia (elevated glucose levels), family history, poor diet (especially one that’s too rich in sodium), tobacco, alcohol, physical inactivity, excess weight, stress, sleep apnea, kidney disease and age are among the main risk factors.

Prevention and treatment

Whether you’re hypertensive or not, the same recommendations apply to you if you want to ensure your long-term health and prevent problems further down the line.

  • Have your blood pressure checked at every doctor appointment.
  • Adopt healthy eating habits by limiting your intake of sodium, saturated fat and trans fat.
  • Fit some physical activity into your routine—try to do at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week.
  • If you smoke, quit for good.
  • Find ways to manage your stress: reading, yoga, walking, etc.
  • Limit your alcohol intake.
  • If you are prescribed hypertension medications, take them exactly as directed.

In conclusion

High blood pressure should not be taken lightly, but the good news is that it can be prevented or brought back down to normal levels simply by adopting better lifestyle habits. You should also know that you can check your blood pressure in many drugstores, and that blood pressure monitors are available in stores if you want to keep an eye on things at home.

 

References:
American Diabetes Association, “High Blood Pressure”:  http://www.diabetes.org/are-you-at-risk/lower-your-risk/bloodpressure.html. Accessed February 21, 2017.
American Heart Association, “Why High Blood Pressure is a ‘Silent Killer’”: https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/UnderstandSymptomsRisks/Why-High-Blood-Pressure-is-a-Silent-Killer_UCM_002053_Article.jsp. Accessed February 21, 2017.
Canadian Diabetes Association, “High Blood Pressure”: https://www.diabetes.ca/diabetes-and-you/complications/high-blood-pressure. Accessed February 21, 2017.
Diabetes Québec, “Controlling your blood pressure”: http://www.diabete.qc.ca/en/understand-diabetes/all-about-diabetes/complications/controlling-your-blood-pressure. Accessed February 21, 2017.
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, “High blood pressure”: http://www.heartandstroke.ca/heart/risk-and-prevention/condition-risk-factors/high-blood-pressure. Accessed February 21, 2017.
Hypertension Canada, “Avez-vous le diabète? Si vous êtes diabétique, vos risques de faire de l’hypertension artérielle sont élevés!”: http://www.hypertension.ca/~hyperten/images/stories/dls/2011_Resources_En/2012_HighBPInPeopleWithDiabetesAreYouAtRisk_FR_P1011-1.pdf. Accessed February 21, 2017.
Hypertension Canada, “Gestion de ma pression artérielle”: http://www.hypertension.ca/images/2016_EducationalResources/2015_ManagingYourBloodPressure_FR_P1005_PREVIEW.pdf. Accessed February 21, 2017.
WebMD, “Diabetic Nephropathy”: http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/guide/diabetes-kidney-disease. Accessed February 14, 2017.