Can Diabetes Cause Hypertension?

The American Diabetes Association states that nearly one in three American adults have high blood pressure. Most people with diabetes will develop high blood pressure during their lifetime.

Blood pressure is the force of blood flow inside your blood vessels. If your blood moves through blood vessels with too much force, you have hypertension. High blood pressure can lead to, and worsen, many complications of diabetes, such as diabetic eye disease.

Diabetes and Hypertension

Having diabetes can make you more vulnerable to conditions such as heart attacks, stroke and kidney failure. This occurs because diabetes damages arteries and makes them harden. This hardening of the arteries is known as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis can cause high blood pressure, which if left untreated can lead to blood vessel damage, stroke, heart failure, heart attack or kidney failure.

Furthermore, hypertension can lead to coronary artery disease (heart disease), peripheral vascular disease (hardening of the arteries in the legs and feet) and heart failure. It is important to note that even blood pressure at the higher end of normal, also known as prehypertension, can impact your health. Studies show that people with prehypertension have a greater chance of developing heart disease as well.

What Do the Numbers Mean?

Your doctor records blood pressure as two numbers, such as 120/80. The first number stands for the pressure of your beating heart as it pushes blood through blood vessels. This is called “systolic” pressure. The second number is the pressure that occurs when the vessels relax between heartbeats and is known as “diastolic” pressure.

A healthy blood pressure reading should be below 120/80. Prehypertension, is any reading between 120/80 and 140/90. For someone to be diagnosed with hypertension, the reading should be 140/90 or higher.

However, this is not the case for people with diabetes. Most people with diabetes should have a reading of no more than 140/80. Keep in mind that the lower your blood pressure, the better your chances are of delaying or preventing a heart attack.

What are the Symptoms of Hypertension?

Unfortunately, high blood pressure has no symptoms and is a silent problem, which is why it's recommended that you check your blood pressure regularly. Have your blood pressure checked every time you make a regular visit to your doctor, or make sure to check it every two years. Remember to follow any recommendations your doctor gives you on treating hypertension, or checking your blood pressure at home.

Treating Hypertension

If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, chances are you will be prescribed ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitors and ARBS (angiotensin II receptor blockers). These are common medications that are often used to treat high blood pressure for people who also have diabetes.

Other high blood pressure medicines are available, but ACE inhibitors and ARBS treat high blood pressure and also prevent or slow kidney disease in people with diabetes. “Water pills,” or diuretics, are also used to treat high blood pressure in people with diabetes, which helps the body get rid of extra fluid.

Lifestyle Changes to Prevent and Treat High Blood Pressure

Here are some changes you can make to help lower, or prevent high blood pressure:

  • Control your blood sugar
  • Stop smoking
  • Eat whole-grain breads and cereals
  • Try herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
  • Check food labels and choose foods with less than 400 mg of sodium per serving
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Take up an exercise routine
  • Visit your doctor regularly

Sources: American Diabetes Association and WebMD.com

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