Diabetes and Hypertension

It's Important to Control Your Blood Pressure, Too

Man taking his blood pressure
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The need for people with diabetes to closely monitor and control their blood glucose levels is common knowledge and constantly stressed. But with all the attention paid to blood sugar, it's possible to overlook a serious related medical issue -- high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.

Blood pressure control is important for people with diabetes for many reasons. Diabetes increases a person's risk for various conditions, including heart disease, stroke, kidney damage and eye problems.

High blood pressure itself also increases these risks. Unfortunately, the two diseases often go hand-in-hand. As many as two-thirds of people with diabetes also have high blood pressure, meaning they have a compounded risk of these various other conditions.

Blood Pressure Goal for People with Diabetes

Previously, the recommended blood pressure goal for people with diabetes was set lower than that for people without a complicating disorder. This was changed with revised Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes 2013. Experts raised the treatment goal for high blood pressure to less than 140 mm Hg. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that people with diabetes get their blood pressure checked by a medical professional at least two to four times per year.

Lifestyle Changes for High Blood Pressure Control

The good news is that the lifestyle changes recommended for people with diabetes are pretty much the same as those recommended for people with high blood pressure.

(Added bonus: They'll help control blood cholesterol levels, too.

Diet for High Blood Pressure and Diabetes

A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lower-fat proteins (dairy, fish and nuts), and monounsaturated fats (in place of saturated and trans fats) is usually recommended for people with diabetes.

Of course, attention must also be paid to carbohydrate consumption, but this basic diet is effective for diabetes management.

A very similar eating plan is recommended for controlling high blood pressure. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet puts the same emphasis on fresh produce and low fat choices, but also limits sodium to 2,400 milligrams per day. Essentially, the DASH diet helps control both diabetes and high blood pressure.

Exercise

Again, the lifestyle modifications recommended for diabetes are very similar to those for hypertension. Taking a brisk walk or engaging in some other form of cardiovascular exercise for 30 minutes, five days per week will help manage or reduce risk for both conditions.

Weight Control

Being overweight or obese raises risks for both diabetes and high blood pressure. Achieve calorie balance -- work to take in the same number of calories each day that you burn to maintain a healthy weight. If you need to lose a few pounds to get to your healthy weight, work to take in fewer calories than you burn.

This will help control both conditions. A general goal to aim for is a body mass index below 25.

No Smoking

Because smoking is a powerful risk factor for heart disease -- and both hypertension and diabetes raise heart disease risk -- it's essential that anyone with diabetes stop smoking as soon as possible.

Limit Alcohol Intake

Alcoholic beverages are not diabetes-friendly nor are they good for high blood pressure. For both conditions it is wise to stay within the guideline of men having no more than two drinks containing alcohol per day and women having no more than one per day.

Medications May Be Required for Hypertension

While these changes can help many people control high blood pressure and/or diabetes, sometimes even the most sincere efforts at lifestyle modification won't be enough to keep blood pressure in a healthy range. In these cases, a doctor may recommend medication. Experts have found that for most people with diabetes, more than one medication is required to control high blood pressure.

Sources:

Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes - 2013. American Diabetes Association. doi: 10.2337/dc13-S011 Diabetes Care January 2013 vol. 36 no. Supplement 1 S11-S66

Chapman-Novakofski, Karen. "Diabetes — The Medical Perspective." Diabetes Life Lines, University of Illinois Extension. 13 Oct 2007

"Treating High Blood Pressure in People with Diabetes." Diabetes.org, American Diabetes Association. 13 Oct 2007

"How is High Blood Pressure Treated?" National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health. Updated September 10, 2015.

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