The majority of people with type 2 diabetes and a good number of those with type 1 diabetes have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Most often, high blood pressure has no symptoms; hence the importance of regular screening tests.
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)
In some cases, lifestyle changes suffice to maintain a person’s blood pressure at acceptable values. For example:
- Adopting a healthy diet (a DASH diet)
- Cutting back on sodium (salt)
- Drinking alcohol in moderation
- Being physically active every day
- Maintaining or aiming for a healthy weight
- Taking medication as prescribed
- Quitting smoking
- Adopting healthy stress management
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.