Diabetes & Hypertension: What You Need to Know

According to the American Heart Association, diabetes is one of the leading controllable risk factors of heart disease. Diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure) often go hand-in-hand, and having these conditions together can worsen either of them. 

What are the risks?

High blood pressure is termed a “silent killer” because it doesn’t cause any obvious symptoms. You may not even be aware you have it until you develop dangerously high blood pressure or other serious complications.

Heart & circulation complications

Both diabetes and high blood pressure damage the pipe-like blood vessels called arteries, and hardens them, restricting blood flow. Later, there is a buildup of fatty plaque and cholesterol in and on your artery walls — a process called atherosclerosis.

The plaque can rupture, triggering a blood clot in the heart that leads to a heart attack, in the brain causing stroke, or in the blood vessels of your legs leading to peripheral vascular disease. Together these problems are known as cardio (meaning heart) vascular (meaning blood vessel) diseases.

Enlarges your heart

High blood pressure means that the force of the blood on the blood vessels and the heart is too high. Your heart may then have to pump harder to meet the demands of your body leading to a thickened, enlarged heart over time. 

Worsens diabetes

Having both diabetes and high blood pressure further aggravates your chances of developing other diabetic complications, including eye, nerve, and kidney damage. 

How to avoid high blood pressure?

When it comes to preventing diabetes complications, adequate blood pressure control is very important. What’s the best blood pressure for you? Ideal blood pressure is individualized and is based on cardiovascular risk factors, potential adverse effects of medications and patient preference, so speak to your doctor about your ideal BP.  

The American Diabetes Association not only encourages self-monitoring your BP readings at home but also keeping up your doctor appointments to have your blood pressure recorded at every routine clinical-care visit.

Opt for a “no added salt diet”

A “no added salt” diet is a diet containing only 4-grams sodium with no added salt shakers at the table or any extra salt after the food is cooked. Also, limit your intake of junk and processed foods as they are high in sodium.

Move more, sit less, and exercise daily

Sedentary behavior takes a heavy toll on your heart and vascular health. So, cut the time you spend sitting throughout the day. If your job requires sitting most hours of the day, take regular breaks, stand up and stretch yourself. 

Regular exercise, on the other hand, can help you lose the extra pounds that may be wreaking havoc on your blood pressure readings. Shedding as little as 10 pounds can help bring your blood pressure down—and losing weight offers added health benefits for those with hypertension and diabetes. 

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