High and Low Blood Pressure Symptoms

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High blood pressure is a risk factor in developing diabetes complication
High blood pressure is a risk factor in developing diabetes complication

Blood pressure control is important whether you have diabetes or not.

However, having high blood pressure is a key risk factor in developing heart disease, stroke and other complications of diabetes.

Diabetes and high blood pressure are often associated, and many people with diabetes take medication to lower their blood pressure.

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure means the pressure of blood in your arteries as it’s being pumped by the heart.

Higher blood pressure is linked with a higher incidence of diabetes complications, such as kidney disease and sight damage, so the blood pressure target for people with diabetes is a reading of under 130/80 mmHg.

Read more on the meaning of these numbers below the symptoms.

What are the symptoms of high blood pressure?

Most diabetics with high blood pressure have no symptoms.

However, very high blood pressure or rapidly rising blood pressure can cause:

  • Headaches
  • Vision problems
  • Nose bleeds
  • Trouble breathing
  • Fits
  • Black-outs

What are the symptoms of low blood pressure?

Similar to high blood pressure, the symptoms of low pressure may not always be apparent. If you do get symptoms, they may be identified as any of the following:

  • Feeling dizzy, light headed or fainting
  • Blurred vision
  • A rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Feeling nauseous
  • Confusion

What do blood pressure numbers mean?

Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury, as two figures, for example 124/80 mmHg.

  • The first number (124 in this case) is known as systolic pressure - pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts.
  • The second number (80 here) is diastolic pressure - the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests.
Transcript

Blood pressure is important to track because high blood pressure is associated with a greater risk of organ damage, such as kidney damage and retinal damage, in people with diabetes.

High blood pressure tends to be quite closely associated with people with type 2 diabetes, but keeping blood pressure levels healthy applies to all people with diabetes and we should have our blood pressure measured at least once each year.

Because of the extra threat of organ damage, people with diabetes are actually given more strict targets for blood pressure than other patients.

Non-diabetic people have a target of keeping below 140 over 80 millimetres of mercury.

For people with diabetes, the target is below 130 over 80.

You might ask what these numbers mean. The first number is the pressure in the blood vessels at the point in which the heart pumps. The second number is the measurement of the pressure when the heart is resting between each beats.

The thing about conventional blood pressure checks is that they give a reading only relevant to the time you’re having the check.

If you’re not completely relaxed at the time of the check, you could get a reading that’s higher than it should be.

There’s been news lately about the so-called ‘white coat syndrome’ where the fact that you know a test is being done, leads to stress and higher blood pressure whilst the test is being done which can give a falsely high reading.

Doctors are recognising this and often, if you score a high reading, you may be asked to have another test to make sure it wasn’t falsely high.

How can you lower your blood pressure:

  • Quit smoking
  • Cut down on alcohol
  • Get some physical activity, it’s recommended we should aim to get 2 ½ hours of activity into each week - or 1 hr 15 of intensive activity
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet

One thing that all nutritionists seem to agree on is that cutting down on white bread, white pasta, white rice and pastries is a good thing.

If you still want bread, rice, etc; pick smaller portions of these and go for the whole grain versions with much more fibre in them. Definitely try to eat more non-starchy veg if you can.

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At what point does high blood pressure cause a problem for people with diabetes?

For people with diabetes, high blood pressure is categorised as 140/80. For those with diabetes and complications, high blood pressure starts at 130/80.

Both of these figures are lower than the cut-off point for people without diabetes. High blood pressure refers to sustained high readings rather than a one-off high reading.

How is high blood pressure diagnosed?

Anxiety, stress or strenuous exercise can all cause temporary high blood pressure levels in both diabetics and non-diabetics. However, high blood pressure is diagnosed when you have several readings. 

How is high blood pressure caused?

In most cases, the cause of high blood pressure is not known.

The pressure within the blood vessels depends on how hard the heart pumps, and how much the arteries resist. Slight narrowing of the arteries may then increase the resistance to blood flow, increasing the blood pressure. Sometimes, other conditions cause high blood pressure such as diabetic nephropathy, kidney or hormone problems.

How common is high blood pressure amongst diabetics?

Approximately 3 in 10 people with type 1 diabetes and around 8 in 10 people with type 2 diabetes develop high blood pressure at some stage of their life.

The level of high blood pressure risk goes up for people of African-Caribbean or Indian origin.

Furthermore, risk increases for those who are overweight, eat low fruit and vegetable levels, don’t take much exercise or drink regularly.

What tests are used to diagnose high blood pressure?

Urine tests can check for protein or blood in urine, blood tests can check kidney function or cholesterol, and an ECG can trace heartbeat.

I am diabetic, why should high blood pressure worry me?

High blood pressure increases risks of developing cardiovascular disease and kidney damage. High blood pressure may damage arteries and strain the heart over the years.

Other diabetes complications may be more common if you have high blood pressure, including diabetic retinopathy.

How can I lower blood pressure whilst managing my diabetes?

There are various ways to lower blood pressure, including modifying lifestyle and medication. Losing weight makes a big difference to blood pressure.

Taking regular physical exercise also makes a big difference to blood pressure. Lowering salt intake also makes a major difference to blood pressure, as does eating a more healthy diet in general.

Furthermore, cutting down alcohol and stopping smoking can also lower blood pressure amongst diabetics. Drug treatment is used in some instances, with several different drugs used to lower blood pressure.

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