Blood Pressure is another one of the key health metrics you need to keep track of to make sure you don’t suffer some of the complications of diabetes. High blood pressure is a lot like diabetes in some respects, you can have it for years and not know it, and the entire time it damages your heart, blood vessels, kidneys and other parts of your body.
The term Blood Pressure is an actual measurement of the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood.
Blood pressure doesn't stay the same all the time. It lowers when you sleep and rises when you wake up. Blood pressure also rises when you're excited, nervous, angry or scared. It also rises when you are physically active – which is good, unless it goes too high.
High Blood Pressure (HBP) is a condition that exists when your numbers stay above normal most of the time; “normal” is considered to be 120/80 and will be explained later in this article. HBP is a serious condition that can lead to heart disease, heart attack or failure, stroke, kidney failure and other health problems. Diabetes puts people at much greater risk for all of those conditions, so it is extremely important to keep your blood pressure levels in a healthy range.
About 1 in 3 adults in the United States has HBP. The condition usually has no symptoms, so knowing your blood pressure numbers is important, even when you're feeling fine. If your blood pressure is normal, you can work to keep it that way. If your blood pressure is too high, treatment may help prevent damage to your body's organs.
How Blood Pressure is Measured
The most familiar way of measuring blood pressure is using a cuff that expands with air and a stethoscope. The cuff is expanded to briefly cut off the flow of blood. A medical professional, places a stethoscope on the inner surface of your elbow and opens the valve to slowly release air from the cuff. As your blood begins to flow back through your arm it makes a pulsing sound. Your provider listens with a stethoscope for this sound.
When the first sound of the pulse is heard, the number from the pressure gauge is recorded. This is your systolic blood pressure. It represents the pressure in your arteries when your heart contracts (beats). When the sound fades, that number is recorded from the pressure gauge. This is your diastolic blood pressure. It represents the pressure of the blood in your arteries when your heart rests between beats.
Blood pressure is written as systolic over or before diastolic e.g. 120/80. Again, 120/80 is considered “normal”.
|Systolic (Top #)
||Diastolic (Bottom #)
|120 or below
||80 or below
|120 – 139
||80 – 89
|140 – 159
||90 – 99
||HBP (stage 1)|
|160 or higher
||100 or higher
||HBP (stage 2)|
If you have diabetes or chronic kidney disease, HBP is defined as 130/80 or higher.
Here is the tricky thing about figuring out whether your blood pressure is high. If your systolic blood pressure is 110, but your diastolic blood pressure is 92, it’s in the normal range for systolic but high for diastolic so, you have stage 1 HBP. Likewise, if your diastolic pressure is 80, but your systolic pressure is 160, you have stage 2 HBP. So, in other words, if any of your numbers fall into an abnormal level, then you have HBP in the high range of the reading.
Who Is at Risk for High Blood Pressure?
Age - Blood pressure tends to rise with age. Men over 45 and women over 55 are at increased risk for HBP. Over half of all Americans over age 60 have HBP.
Race/Ethnicity - HBP can affect anyone, but it is more common in African American adults than among Caucasians. HBP risks vary among different groups of Hispanic American adults (e.g. Caribbean Hispanics vs. Central or South American Hispanics).
Gender - Fewer women have HBP than men and younger women (aged 18–59) are more likely than men to be aware of and get treatment for HBP.
Lifestyle Habits - Many unhealthy lifestyle habits can raise your risk for HBP, including:
• You're more likely to develop HBP if you're overweight or obese.
• Eating too much sodium (salt)
• Drinking too much alcohol
• Not getting enough potassium in your diet
• Not doing enough physical activity
Heredity - A family history of HBP raises your risk for the condition.
Stress - Long-lasting stress also can put you at risk for HBP.
Treatment of High Blood Pressure
Changing your lifestyle can go a long way toward controlling high blood pressure.
• Lose weight if you are overweight – a reduction of 5% can make a big difference. For most people that is less than 20 pounds.
• Increase the amount of physical activity you get on a daily basis. Aim for 30 minutes per day, but health benefits are gained from as little as 60 minutes of activity per week.
• Improve your diet to include: more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lower in sodium lower in fat and dietary cholesterol.
• Quit smoking.
• Learn techniques to manage stress.
Sometimes, though, lifestyle changes aren't enough. In addition to some of the measures listed above, your doctor may recommend medication to lower your blood pressure. Which category of medication your doctor prescribes depends on your stage of high blood pressure and whether you have other medical problems, such as diabetes.
Medications to treat high blood pressure
• Thiazide diuretics - Sometimes called "water pills", are medications that act on your kidneys to help your body eliminate sodium and water. Diuretics are often the first, but not the only, choice in high blood pressure medications.
• Beta blockers - These medications reduce the workload on your heart and open your blood vessels, causing your heart to beat slower and with less force.
• Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors - These medications help relax blood vessels by blocking the formation of a natural chemical, (Angiotensin) that narrows blood vessels.
• Angiotensin II receptor blockers - These medications help relax blood vessels by blocking the action, not the formation, of a natural chemical, Angiotensin, that narrows blood vessels.
• Calcium channel blockers - These medications help relax the muscles of your blood vessels. Some slow your heart rate. Grapefruit juice, for example, interacts negatively with some calcium channel blockers, so talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you're concerned about interactions.
• Renin inhibitors - Slows down the production of renin, an enzyme produced by your kidneys that starts a chain of chemical steps that increases blood pressure.
If you're being treated for HBP and have repeat readings in the normal range, your blood pressure is under control. However, you still have the condition. You should continue to see your doctor and follow your treatment plan to keep your blood pressure under control.
Updated October 3,2011