Diabetes & Managing Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure and diabetes often go hand in hand. Approximately 3 in 10 people with type 1 diabetes and around 8 in 10 people with type 2 diabetes develop high blood pressure. It's common and can be dangerous.
Here are some tips for those with diabetes on how to manage their blood pressure.
What is high blood pressure?
Blood pressure refers to the pressure of the blood pumping in your arteries. If it's too high then there's a risk you'll develop heart disease or have a stroke. Safe blood pressure readings are important for everyone, but particularly people with diabetes.
What are the symptoms?
Often high blood pressure is symptomless and will only be picked up at a routine doctor's check-up, however, some people who have very high blood pressure, or whose blood pressure rises rapidly, may experience the following:
- Trouble breathing
- Nose bleeds
- Vision problems
With low blood pressure there are also usually no symptoms but some people experience:
- Feeling dizzy, light headed or fainting
- Blurred vision
- A rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Feeling nauseous
Low blood pressure is not dangerous like high blood pressure unless it causes injury through fainting. Doctors will usually not prescribe medications.
How does blood pressure affect diabetes?
High blood pressure leads to numerous health complications such as heart disease and stroke. It damages the heart and strains arteries which lead to a weak cardiovascular system. For diabetics it can also lead to the worsening of diabetes risks such as kidney disease and sight damage.
When left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to circulation problems and the risk of ulcers in diabetics. If ulcers develop on the feet,for example, it can lead to foot amputation. It makes foot care hugely important as one of the first indications of poor circulation can be tingling, numbness or other sensations in the feet.
The risk of high blood pressure is increased for people of Indian or African-Caribbean race. Those who are overweight, exercise little and eat few fruits or vegetables are also at an increased risk.
People with diabetes should aim to keep their blood pressure low and stable.
Type 1 diabetes - aim for a resting blood pressure reading below 135/85 mmHg.
Those with extra issues such as metabolic syndrome or kidney disease need to aim below 130/80mmHg.
Type 2 diabetes - keep blood pressure below 140/80 mmHg.
Those with extra issues such as retinopathy (sight damage), kidney disease and cerebrovascular disease, such as stroke, need to keep beneath 130/80mmHg.
The importance of regular check-ups
It's important to have regular blood pressure check-ups to keep an eye on this usually symptomless yet dangerous problem. Some people need to take medication to restore normal blood pressure such as ACE inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers. These are thought to protect the kidneys, but losing weight and improving your lifestyle choices, quitting cigarettes for example, will make a big difference.
A healthy diet and plenty of exercise will reduce blood pressure and help to improve the overall health of those with diabetes.