Diabetes and High Blood Pressure:
A Dangerous Combination
Many people with diabetes also have high blood pressure. It is very important for everyone, but especially those with diabetes to control their blood pressure. Having both diabetes and high blood pressure increases the risk for:
- Heart attack
- Eye and kidney disease
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is when your body does not make enough of a hormone called insulin or may not use insulin properly. Insulin helps your body use sugar from your food as energy or stores it for later use. When this does not happen, too much sugar stays in your blood.
Over time, high blood sugar can lead to serious problems. It can harm your eyes, nerves, and kidneys. It can damage your blood vessels, leading to heart disease and stroke, and it can reduce blood flow to parts of your body, especially your feet. This can cause pain when you walk and slow healing.
What is High Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is a measure of the force of blood against the walls of your arteries. Blood pressure readings include two numbers, such as 120/80. For diabetics a blood pressure reading of 130/80 or above is considered high blood pressure. It is important to keep track of your blood pressure. For NHP members, NHP will cover the cost of a blood pressure monitor that is simple to use at home. Ask your provider for a prescription for an Omron 711DLX meter, and fill it at an NHP participating pharmacy.
Who is Most at Risk?
While no one is sure what causes diabetes and high blood pressure, research has shown that some people may be at higher risk.
Risk factors for diabetes include:
- Having a history of diabetes in the family
- Being overweight
- Being inactive
- Having high blood pressure or high cholesterol
- Being over age 45
- Being of African, Asian, Hispanic, Native American or Pacific Islander heritage
- Having exposure to certain antipsychotic drugs
- Having a prior history of gestational diabetes or birth of at least one baby weighing more than nine pounds
You are more at risk for high blood pressure if:
- You smoke
- You are overweight
- Others in your family have high blood pressure
- You are African American
- You don't get regular exercise
- You drink too much alcohol
- You have a lot of salt or not enough calcium, potassium, or magnesium in your diet
- You use decongestants, anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen or naproxen), or steroids on a regular basis
Symptoms of diabetes and high blood pressure can appear suddenly or over time. And, it's unlikely that anyone would have all of these symptoms. It is possible to have type 2 diabetes with no symptoms.
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst
- Extreme tiredness
- Weight loss (in spite of increased appetite)
- Blurred vision
- Slow-healing infections or wounds
- Pain, numbness, or tingling in the feet
Here is What You Can Do
Diet -- Follow healthy eating guidelines:
- Eat a variety of foods
- Limit fat, especially saturated and trans fat
- Limit cholesterol
- Eat enough starch and fiber
- Limit sugar
- Monitor sodium (salt) intake
Medication -- Your health care provider may recommend medication to help you reach your health goals. Medication may help you, whether you are pre-diabetic, have high blood pressure, or have diabetes and high blood pressure.
Be Physically Active -- Every little bit helps, even just five minutes a day is a start. A half hour of walking several days a week could make a big difference in your health. Check with your health care provider if you need advice on which types of exercise are best for you.