Diabetes and Blood Pressure: What Is the Relationship?
High blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension, is commonly referred to as a silent killer because of its lack of obvious signs or symptoms. Without early awareness and treatment, hypertension can cause severe damage to your blood vessels and vital organs. Such damage puts you at increased risk of experiencing the following life-threatening problems, including:
- Heart attacks and strokes
- Heart failure
Certain chronic conditions you’ve already been diagnosed with may impact how likely you are to develop hypertension. One of these conditions is diabetes. In fact, diabetes and high blood pressure share many of the same contributing factors, including obesity, lack of exercise, and a diet that’s high in sodium and fat. But what is the relationship between diabetes and blood pressure? Here's what you should know.
Can You Get Hypertension Due to Diabetes?
Does diabetes affect blood pressure? The short answer is yes. One of the effects of diabetes on the body is a hardening of the arteries, a process known as atherosclerosis, which can then lead to high blood pressure. Hypertension due to diabetes can be life-threatening if left untreated. As you might imagine, the combination of diabetes and high blood pressure can lead to a worse outcome than either condition on its own, further amplifying your risk of a heart attack or stroke. Certain diseases associated with diabetes, such as kidney disease and diabetic retinopathy, which can result in blindness — are also more likely to occur in people with diabetes and high blood pressure.
Blood Pressure Management
For people with diabetes, blood pressure monitoring—whether it takes place at the doctor’s office or at home using self-monitoring—is a priority. While improving type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure with lifestyle changes is possible and recommended, medication is common. The first-line treatments for people with diabetes and hypertension are drugs called ACE inhibitors and ARBs—these treat hypertension while also combating diabetes-related kidney disease. Which route to take when it comes to medicating someone with multiple chronic conditions, like diabetes and hypertension, is not always straightforward. For instance, some drugs that target blood pressure can worsen diabetes symptoms. For example, the side effects of blood pressure medication can include diarrhea, nausea, and erectile dysfunction, among others. Be sure to discuss the impact of treatment with your primary care provider.
Ways to Prevent Diabetes and High Blood PressurePoor diet and lack of exercise have far-reaching consequences on your health. Making changes that address both components of your lifestyle can lower your blood pressure while also reducing your risk of diabetes and other medical complications. Here are our recommendations on how to prevent diabetes and high blood pressure.
- Exercise every single day. A brisk walk every morning can strengthen your heart muscle and help atherosclerosis, reducing the stiffness in your arteries that occurs with high blood pressure. On top of that, exercise helps you gain better control of your blood sugar levels.
- Take it slow. You don’t need to run a marathon to reap the benefits of daily aerobic exercise. Start with a 5-minute walk and add a few laps around the block over time when you feel more comfortable. Parking your car further away from your destination or opting for the stairs instead of the elevator lift can help you sneak a couple of extra steps into your daily routine.
- Stick to what’s enjoyable. Exercise doesn’t need to be another chore. Remember that walking outdoors, gardening, a dance class, or housework are all great forms of exercise. If you haven’t found a form of exercise that suits you, try experimenting with new types of exercise.
- Limit your sugar intake. Cravings for sugar are tough to fight. Make a real effort to maintain healthy glucose levels and keep your sugar cravings at bay.
- Limit the sodium in your diet. This doesn’t just mean less table salt—the most foolproof way to slash your sodium intake down to the recommended guidelines is to avoid processed foods altogether. If you’re not quite ready for that, try looking for “no salt added” or “sodium-free” labels on prepackaged foods.
- Fill your shopping cart with fresh or frozen produce. Spruce up your meals with leafy greens and crunchy veggies. Steamed green beans or carrots make a quick and healthy add-on at dinnertime. When snacking, skip the chips and reach for some fresh fruit instead.
- Moderate your coffee intake. How coffee affects blood sugar levels is not quite clear. The mixed scientific results should be enough for you to want to ease up on the amount of coffee you drink if you have diabetes. Sweeteners and creamers should be replaced with healthy alternatives.
Do You Have Diabetes and Hypertension? Connect With Others Just Like YouYou’re not alone in your struggle with diabetes and hypertension. Countless others experience the same difficulties, understand your challenges, and can relate to everything we’ve described in this article. Diabetes and hypertension touch many lives. Join the CuraLife community today to share your journey and read about what others have experienced.
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