Controlling your Blood Pressure

The blood pressure of a person with diabetes should be below 130/80 mm Hg.

The majority of people with type 2 diabetes and a good number of those with type 1 have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Most often, high blood pressure has no symptoms; hence the importance of regular screening tests.

Complications

High blood pressure is truly a time bomb. By prematurely aging all the body’s blood vessels, it contributes to many diabetes complications.

It promotes atherosclerosis (fatty deposits on the interior arterial walls) and can lead to a heart attack, stroke (cerebral thrombosis), heart failure and kidney failure (nephropathy).

Monitoring and controlling your blood pressure

Blood pressure is measured with two numbers:

  • The larger number represents systolic pressure (the pressure exerted on the walls of the arteries when the heart beats)
  • The smaller number represents diastolic pressure (the pressure exerted on the walls of the arteries between heart beats)

Prevention

In some cases, lifestyle changes suffice to maintain a person’s blood pressure at acceptable values. For example:

In other cases, an antihypertensive medication may need to be prescribed, but it should not substitute for a healthy diet and an active lifestyle.

Importance of maintaining a healthy weight

People who are overweight are twice as likely to have high blood pressure as those who are a healthy weight.

If you carry extra fat on your abdomen, you have a greater risk of developing high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease than if you carry it on your hips and thighs.

Research has shown that a loss of 5% to 10% (4 kg or 10 lb) of your initial weight can reduce your blood pressure and also reduce the need for antihypertensive medication, even if you don’t attain a healthy weight. If your weight is affecting your health, this can be an extra motivation for starting a healthy weight management program.

Research and text: Amélie Roy-Fleming Dietitian, CDE and Julie St-Jean, Dietitian

Scientific review: Louise Tremblay, Nurse, M.Ed.

June 2014