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Managing Diabetes Complications: High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when the force of blood flow inside blood vessels is too high. The heart has to work harder to pump blood through the body, which can contribute to serious health problems.

People with diabetes and high blood pressure have nearly twice the risk of heart disease as people who have only high blood pressure. Studies also show an increased risk of kidney damage, diabetic eye disease and stroke when hypertension is a factor.1

Causes of High Blood Pressure

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, about 40% of people with diabetes also have high blood pressure or use prescription medications to treat high blood pressure.2 The causes of hypertension are unknown, but several factors may play a role in its development:

  • Heredity
  • Race
  • Age
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Salt sensitivity
  • Being overweight
  • Stress

Identifying High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure has no signs or symptoms. The only way to identify it is by having your blood pressure checked at every physician visit. This is a quick and easy procedure and is something you have probably done many times before. If you have diabetes the recommended blood pressure target is less than 130/80 mm Hg. When your blood pressure is checked, keep a record of the value so that you can monitor your blood pressure.

If you have a high blood pressure reading, your healthcare professional may recommend a series of additional blood pressure tests.


Preventing and Treating High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure cannot be cured, but it can usually be controlled. You can reduce your chances of developing high blood pressure by the following:3

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Staying physically active
  • Eating a healthy diet that includes daily servings of fruit, vegetables and whole-grain foods
  • Choosing foods lower in salt and fat
  • Choosing lean meats
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation
  • Quitting smoking

Your healthcare professional may also prescribe medication to control high blood pressure. The type and amount of medication will depend on your specific situation.


1 American Diabetes Association, American College of Cardiology. Hypertension in diabetes. Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease Review. 2002;2:1-4. Available at: Accessed October 16, 2008.

Public Health Agency of Canada. Long-term complications of diabetes. Available at: Accessed March 27, 2009.

3World Hypertension League, Nonpharmacologic Therapy For High Blood Presure (Hypertension). Available at Accessed November 17, 2008.


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