High blood pressure (hypertension) can lead to and make worse many complications of diabetes, including diabetic eye disease and kidney disease. Most people with diabetes develop high blood pressure during their life.
Having diabetes makes high blood pressure and other heart and circulation problems more likely, because diabetes damages arteries and makes them targets for hardening (atherosclerosis). Atherosclerosis can cause high blood pressure, which if not treated, can lead to blood vessel damage, stroke, heart failure, heart attack, or kidney failure.
Compared to people with normal blood pressure readings, men and women with hypertension more often have:
- Coronary artery disease (heart disease)
- Peripheral vascular disease (hardening of the arteries in the legs and feet)
- Heart failure
Even blood pressure that's at the higher end of normal, called prehypertension (120/80 to 139/89) impacts your health. Studies show that people with prehypertension have a two to three times greater chance over 10 years of developing heart disease.
What Should Blood Pressure Be if You Have Diabetes?
Blood pressure readings vary, but most people with diabetes should have a reading of no more than 140/80. The first, or top, number is the "systolic pressure," or the pressure in the arteries when your heart beats and fills the arteries with blood. The second, or bottom, number is the "diastolic pressure," or the pressure in the arteries when your heart rests between beats, filling itself with blood for the next contraction.
What Are the Symptoms of High Blood Pressure?
Usually, high blood pressure has no symptoms. That's why it's so important to check your blood pressure regularly. You should get it checked at any doctor visit and follow your doctor's recommendations about checking your blood pressure at home, too.
How Is High Blood Pressure Treated?
ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitors and ARBs (angiotensin II receptor blockers) are kinds of medications that are often used to treat high blood pressure for people with diabetes. Although other high blood pressure medicines are available, ACE inhibitors and ARBs treat high blood pressure and also prevent or slow kidney disease in people with diabetes.
Note: Some blood pressure medicines may make your blood sugar and lipid levels worse. Blood pressure medicines can also cause erectile dysfunction. Talk with your doctor about the side effects of prescribed medicines.
Other drugs used to treat high blood pressure in people with diabetes include drugs known commonly as "water pills" or diuretics, which help the body get rid of extra fluid.
Most doctors use ACE inhibitors or ARBs first, then add other anti-hypertension drugs if needed.
What Lifestyle Changes Can Prevent and Treat High Blood Pressure?
To treat and help prevent high blood pressure:
- Control your blood sugar.
- Stop smoking.
- Eat healthy.
- Maintain a healthy body weight.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
- Limit salt intake.
- Visit your doctor regularly.