Now that you have diabetes it’s important to keep yourself healthy and avoid as many risks as possible. One major risk associated with diabetes is heart disease and one risk associated with both diabetes and heart disease is high blood pressure.
About 1 in 3 adults in Canada have high blood pressure and people with diabetes have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure than people who don’t.
- If you are a man over 45 or a woman over 55 or have a family history of high blood pressure you are at increased risk.
- Being overweight can also increase your chances of developing diabetes and high blood pressure.
- Having both high blood pressure and diabetes may double your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Living with diabetes will teach you the importance of monitoring and managing your blood glucose and these are the same rules you must use to control your blood pressure.
Just as high blood sugar levels damage blood vessels, high blood pressure (hypertension) also causes blood vessel walls to become thicker and less elastic which makes it more difficult for the blood to pass through them. Your blood is carried in arteries from your heart to the rest of your body and when small arteries become constricted your heart needs to work harder, the narrower the blood vessel the more pressure is needed to pump the blood through. Blood pressure has two numbers the top number is the systolic pressure and this is when your heart is beating and pumping blood through your blood vessels, the second the diastolic pressure is when your heart is at rest between beats.
People with diabetes should set a blood pressure target of <130/80 mmHg. This blood pressure value is ideal for those that have hypertension but a lower blood pressure value is still considered healthy. Your own blood pressure goal should be set in consultation with your physician. High blood pressure, like diabetes is a lifelong problem and must be monitored and treated on an ongoing basis. Diet, exercise and in some cases medication will be recommended by your physician and diabetes healthcare team.
High cholesterol is also a risk factor for developing heart disease and you should discuss this with your physician. There are two types of cholesterol:
- “Good cholesterol” (HDL) protects your heart and helps to keep your arteries clear.
- “Bad cholesterol” (LDL) will cause plaque to build up on the walls of your arteries. The plaque restricts the flow of blood to your heart and brain which adds to your chances of having a stroke or heart attack. Your cholesterol level should be checked on an ongoing basis and your physician will arrange this for you.
Being overweight, often the result of poor diet and lack of exercise is another risk factor and even a modest weight loss of 5% – 10% over a six month period will decrease your risk. Even if you have never exercised or watched your food intake before, now is the time you must start. Diet and exercise programs with realistic, achievable goals will be set for you and monitored by you and your diabetes team.
There are lifestyles choices that you can make to decrease your blood pressure and lower your cholesterol. By working with your physician and diabetes healthcare team to achieve better blood pressure and cholesterol levels you can make a difference in your overall health. So, many of the things that contribute to high blood sugar contribute to high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Obesity, poor diet, too much alcohol, smoking, lack of exercise and stress.
If diabetes and high blood pressure increases your risk for heart disease the same regimen of healthy eating, regular exercise, non smoking, self monitoring and good self management will decrease that risk for both diseases. A positive attitude and healthy lifestyle will go a long way in controlling your diabetes and keeping you heart healthy.
The Importance of Monitoring Blood Glucose and Managing Blood Pressure.”Heart Health and Diabetes” Written By Donna Kwan, RD