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 living with diabetes need to be especially watchful, as they are more likely to develop hypertension at some point and suffer from its adverse consequences.
“Blood pressure” refers to the pressure that blood exerts on artery walls. It’s an essential part of the process that carries oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.
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 causes 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.
For people living 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 number measures diastolic pressure, which is the pressure between heartbeats. However, it’s important to note 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.
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.
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.
American Diabetes Association (n.d). High Blood Pressure. Retrieved from: https://www.diabetes.org/are-you-at-risk/lower-your-risk/bloodpressure.html. Accessed July 12 2021.
American Heart Association (2017). Why High Blood Pressure is a ‘Silent Killer'. Retrieved from: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/why-high-blood-pressure-is-a-silent-killer. Accessed July 12 2021.
Canadian Diabetes Association (n.d). High Blood Pressure. Retrieved from: https://www.diabetes.ca/diabetes-and-you/complications/high-blood-pressure. Accessed July 12 2021.
Diabetes Québec (2014). Controlling your blood pressure. Retrieved from: http://www.diabete.qc.ca/en/understand-diabetes/all-about-diabetes/complications/controlling-your-blood-pressure/. Accessed July 12 2021.
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada (n.d). High blood pressure. Retrieved from: https://www.heartandstroke.ca/heart/risk-and-prevention/condition-risk-factors/high-blood-pressure. Accessed July 12 2021.
Hypertension Canada (2014). Avez-vous le diabète? Si vous êtes diabétique, vos risques de faire de l’hypertension artérielle sont élevés!. Retrieved from: https://src.healthpei.ca/sites/src.healthpei.ca/files/nursingeducation/C.... Accessed July 12 2021.
Hypertension Canada (n.d). Mesure de l'hypertension artérielle. Retrieved from: https://hypertension.ca/fr/measuring-blood-pressure/. Accessed July 12 2021.
WebMD (2019). Diabetic Nephropathy. Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/guide/diabetes-kidney-disease. Accessed July 12 2021.
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