High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is common in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. In fact, people with diabetes are twice as likely to have high blood pressure as people without diabetes.
Blood pressure is the pressure, or force, of blood pushing against your artery walls. High blood pressure, then, is blood pressure that is higher than normal. High blood pressure puts you at risk for serious health problems, such as heart disease, heart attack, stroke, eye problems, and kidney disease.
You’ve likely had your blood pressure measured at your provider’s office many times with a blood pressure cuff. Blood pressure is measured using two numbers:
This is the “top” number and is a measure of the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. For example, 130.
This is the “bottom” number and is a measure of the pressure in your arteries when your heart is relaxing between beats. For example, 85.
With these examples, blood pressure is written as 130/85 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury) and is said to be “130 over 85.”
Blood pressure readings fall into five categories, ranging from normal to extremely high (called “hypertensive crisis”), according to the American Heart Association.
|Blood Pressure Category||Systolic (Top) Number mm Hg||and/or||Diastolic (Bottom) Number mm Hg|
|Normal||Less than 120||and||Less than 80|
|Elevated||120-129||and||Less than 80|
|Stage 1 high blood pressure||130-139||or||80-89|
|Stage 2 high blood pressure||140 or higher||or||90 or higher|
|Hypertensive Crisis||Higher than 180||and/or||Higher than 120|
Blood pressure chart source: American Heart Association
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A blood pressure of less than 120/80 is considered to be normal, or safe. Keep up the good work by continuing to eat healthfully, be active, and stay at a healthy weight.
Blood pressure readings are consistently 120-129 over 80 or less. Take further steps to eat more fruits and vegetables, for example, or cut back on sodium. Stopping smoking, drinking less alcohol, and/or aiming to be active most days of the week are lifestyle strategies that you can adopt.
Blood pressure readings are consistently ranging from 130-139 over 80-89. Along with lifestyle changes, your provider will likely prescribe blood pressure medicine, based on your risk of heart disease. Keep in mind that people with diabetes are at higher risk of heart disease than people without diabetes.
Blood pressure readings are consistently running 140/90 or higher. At this stage your provider will likely prescribe a combination of blood pressure medicines.
A hypertensive crisis is extremely serious and is when your blood pressure rises quickly and severely to 180/120 or higher. Blood pressure levels this high can lead to:
Older adults and African Americans are at an increased risk of developing a hypertensive crisis.
The American Diabetes Association’s Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes — 2021 states that blood pressure targets should be “individualized through a shared decision-making process” that takes into account your risk of heart disease, possible adverse effects of blood pressure medicine, and patient preference. In general, blood pressure targets for people with diabetes are:
Talk with your provider about your own target, as well as the best treatment options for you.
Want to learn more about diabetes and blood pressure? Read “Treating High Blood Pressure.”
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