Managing High Blood Pressure with Diabetes


Jennifer Larson

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woman getting her blood pressure checked

It’s all too common for many people with diabetes to also have hypertension (also known as high blood pressure). Unfortunately, high blood pressure means that you’re at much greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

In fact, if you have both diabetes and hypertension, your risk is double that of a non-diabetic person with hypertension, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). Having both conditions raises your risk of developing eye and kidney disease, as well.

The good news is that you can effectively manage your blood pressure to lower your risk. But you have to really commit to it, as the ADA notes that a diabetic person usually has a lower blood pressure target than the average non-diabetic person—below 130/80 mmHg.

After you receive a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, your doctor will work with you to determine the best method of treatment, be it medication or insulin injections. But, as Dr. Anthony Cardillo explains, the most effective treatment for type 2 diabetes? Proper diet and exercise.

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Aug 13, 2015

2017 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

Avoid foods that are high in sodium

When you eat food containing high levels of sodium, your body has to work extra hard to cope with it. Essentially, your body retains water to try to flush that extra sodium out of your system, which puts strain on your heart and blood vessels.

It’s almost shockingly easy to consume too much sodium. The average American consumes more than 3,000 mg of sodium per day, even though the American Heart Association’s maximum recommended daily allowance of sodium is 1,500 mg. About three-quarters of our daily sodium intake comes from processed and restaurant foods. For example, you can consume your entire recommended daily limit just by eating certain sandwiches and burgers from fast food restaurants. Perhaps unsurprisingly, luncheon and deli meats and prepackaged snacks like chips also tend to be high in sodium.

However, you might not realize that seemingly benign food items in your pantry are chock-full of salt. For example, canned soup tends to be so high in sodium that it made the American Heart Association’s “salty six” list of common high-sodium foods. Your best strategy is to avoid those salty foods or opt for low-sodium versions. Determine the best choice by scrupulously reading nutrition facts and labels—according to the American Heart Association, a product claiming to be “low sodium” can’t contain more than 140 mg per serving.

Other positive changes that you can make in the kitchen include:

  • Switching to low-fat or fat-free dairy products

  • Using low-fat cooking methods like grilling, broiling, roasting or baking

  • Seasoning your food with flavorful herbs instead of salt

  • Choosing lean meats

Exercise regularly

You probably already know that exercise provides multiple benefits, from reducing stress to helping you maintain a healthy weight. It can also help lower your blood pressure.

Aim for about 30 minutes per day of moderately intense aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming or biking. Don’t be intimidated, however, if you’re fairly sedentary right now. You don’t have to start off with 30 full minutes—you can begin by exercising for five minutes and work your way up to the full half hour. 

In fact, before you launch into any new exercise regimen, consult your doctor, who may recommend that you undergo a stress test first.

Take the appropriate blood pressure medication

Your doctor may put you on one or more of the following medications to lower your blood pressure:

  • ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors, which keep your blood vessels relaxed

  • ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers), which also help keep your blood vessels relaxed

  • Beta blockers (beta-adrenergic blocking agents), which block the effects of the hormone epinephrine to help your heart beat more slowly

  • Calcium channel blockers, which help relax your blood vessels and also prevent calcium from entering your heart and blood vessels to reduce your blood pressure

  • Diuretics (water pills), which help you flush sodium out of your body through your urine

Not everyone will need the same medication, although the ADA guidelines recommend that all people with diabetes and hypertension—except for pregnant women—take either an ARB or ACE inhibitor. Talk to your doctor to make sure you are getting the right treatment for your particular situation.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Sep 8, 2017

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. Treatment of Hypertension in Adults With Diabetes. American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care. January 2003 vol. 26: s80-s82.
  2. High Blood Pressure and Diabetes. American Diabetes Association.
  3. Whalen KL and Stewart RD. Pharmacologic Management of Hypertension in Patients with Diabetes. American Family Physician. 2008 Dec 1;78(11):1277-1282.
  4. High Blood Pressure. American Diabetes Association.
  5. Processed Foods: Where is all that salt coming from? American Heart Association.
  6. Reducing Sodium in a Salty World. American Heart Association.
  7. Did You Know? Salty Six. Infographic/fact sheet. American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.
  8. 10 ways to control high blood pressure without medication. Mayo Clinic.
  9. Choosing blood pressure medications. Mayo Clinic.
  10. High Blood Pressure and Nutrition. Cleveland Clinic.

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