If you're managing diabetes and high blood pressure, making some lifestyle changes, such as regularly exercising and limiting your salt intake, can help lower your blood pressure.
Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure are undeniably linked: high blood pressure is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, and many people with type 2 diabetes go on to develop high blood pressure. If you have both conditions, your risk of developing heart disease is double that of a person with high blood pressure alone.
High blood pressure is also known as hypertension, the "silent killer." It earned this nickname because there are no obvious symptoms, so many people are not even aware that they have this widespread disease. In America, it affects about one in three adults, but that number goes up for those with diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, two in three people with diabetes report having hypertension or take medication to lower their blood pressure.
In addition to raising your risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure can increase your risk of developing other type 2 diabetes-related complications such as stroke, kidney disease, and retinopathy (damage to the retina that may lead to blindness). It's important for those with diabetes to get their blood pressure checked at their regular doctor visits. Some people at high risk may need to check their blood pressure at home, too.
There are some risk factors for high blood pressure that are beyond your control, including:
1. A family history
2. Your age (risk increases with age)
3. Your race/ethnicity (compared to Caucasian or Hispanic American adults, African-Americans are at higher risk of developing high blood pressure and developing it at a younger age)
Fortunately, however, other risk factors are within your control, and you can often reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure—or help lower your blood pressure if it's already high—by making simple lifestyle changes. Here's what you can do:
1. Quit smoking: If you smoke, make quitting a priority. You likely already know how much quitting can improve your health; add to the list that it can help to lower your blood pressure. If you are ready to quit smoking, talk with your Rite Aid Pharmacist about Rite Aid's personalized Quit For You program.
2. Exercise most days: Regular exercise can provide a number of health benefits, including helping to lower your blood pressure. Aim for about 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity five times per week. When it comes to lowering your blood pressure, consistency is key because stopping a regular exercise regimen can cause your blood pressure to rise again. If you have never been active or if it has been some time since you last exercised, talk with your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.
3. Maintain a healthy weight: Lose weight if you are overweight, or take care to maintain a healthy weight. Blood pressure often rises along with the number on the scale. Depending on your weight, losing as little as 10 pounds can help reduce high blood pressure. Be sure to talk with your doctor about what a healthy weight is for you.
4. Limit your salt intake: In general, those with normal blood pressure should limit their sodium consumption to no more than 2,300 milligrams daily (about a teaspoon of salt). African-Americans, adults over 51 years of age, and those diagnosed with high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease, or diabetes should reduce their intake to 1,500 milligrams. Avoiding processed foods and frozen meals is a good place to start.
5. Limit alcoholic beverages: Moderate alcohol consumption, which means no more than two drinks a day for men and one for women, may have some beneficial effects on your heart health. More regular heavy drinking can significantly increase your blood pressure. Remember that one beer is a 12-ounce bottle, one glass of wine is five ounces, and one mixed drink should only contain one shot or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.
Some people may be able to control their high blood pressure with these lifestyle changes alone. Others may need medication. Managing diabetes and high blood pressure at the same time does present challenges. Speak to your doctor to develop the best treatment plan for you.
By Joelle Klein
National Institutes of Health (NIH), Blood Pressure Matters
Healthline, Take Down Hypertension
Everyday Health, High Blood Pressure
Mayo Clinic, 10 Ways to Reduce Hypertension Without Medication
NIH, Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure
American Heart Association, Why Hypertension Is a 'Silent Killer'
Mayo Clinic, Alcohol: If You Drink It, Keep It Moderate
These articles are not a substitute for medical advice, and are not intended to treat or cure any disease. Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid, or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of scientific literature may vary. Consult your healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, exercise, or medication regime.