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Decoding Diabetes & Hypertension – Symptoms, Risks and Essential Do’s & Don’ts

Understanding Diabetes & Hypertension

Hypertension (high blood pressure) often affects people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Having these conditions together can make them both worse. Hypertension is also known as the “silent killer”. This is because it usually has no signs or symptoms and many people are not aware they have it. A blood pressure higher than 140/90 needs to be monitored, especially if you are a diabetic. High blood pressure can increase a person’s risk of stroke and heart attack and is quite often an occurrence with diabetes.

3 things diabetes does to your increase blood pressure:

  • Decrease the ability of blood vessels to stretch
  • Increases the amount of fluid in the body
  • Changes the way your body manages insulin

Hypertension and diabetes generally share similar risk factors, including being overweight, following an unhealthy diet, and living an inactive lifestyle. If you do find your blood pressure of the normal mark, consult your doctor to avoid complications. The combination can be lethal, and together can increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Having both conditions can also put you at risk of kidney disease and problems in the blood vessels of the eyes, which could lead to blindness.

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Symptoms of Hypertension

1. Shortness of breath

This is one of the first symptoms of hypertension in diabetes. Shortness of breath is an uncomfortable or terrifying experience, especially when it has never happened before. It could be because of problems with the lungs or with the heart, but its specific cause can sometimes take a while to pinpoint.

2. Difficulty in sleeping

Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder where you repeatedly stop and start breathing during your sleep. This can disrupt the blood flow as sleep helps to regulate stress hormones and keep the nervous system healthy. It is often said that sleep and blood pressure go hand in hand. Likewise, blood pressure and diabetes go together. Therefore, we can say that sleep has an indirect relation with hypertension in diabetes.

3. Blurred vision

If you check your eyes, you can see tiny, delicate blood vessels that supply blood to the eyes. Any fluctuation in the blood pressure can easily affect the eye blood vessels as any other. People with diabetes often complain about blurred vision. If you feel difficulty in vision, this may be a sign of hypertension diabetes.

4. Headache

This is one of the most debated symptoms of hypertension in diabetes. The relationship between headache and hypertension is a subject of concern to people. However, there are people who have complained about having a headache while showing other symptoms of hypertension. Thus, someone experiencing headache are advised to get their blood pressure checked.

Risks involved with Hypertension in Diabetes

a) Atherosclerosis

Hypertension in diabetes creates a force on the artery walls causing a build-up of fatty material on the inside walls of the blood vessels, also known as atherosclerosis. The build-up fatty material is plaque which is formed of fat, vitamins and cholesterol. With time, this fatty material hardens and narrows the blood vessels causing force in blood flow. When the plaque limits the oxygen-rich blood to reach various organs of the body, this can lead to serious problems like heart attack, stroke or even death.

b) Kidney disease

Hypertension in diabetes damages the blood vessels and filters in the kidneys leads to excretion of waste products. When the renal arteries can’t supply oxygen-rich blood to kidneys, it leads to chronic kidney disease (CKD). CKD results in an increased amount of waste in the blood which can make you sick. It can also lead to anaemia, poor nutritional health, nerve damage and weak bones.

c) Eye disease

Hypertension in diabetes damages the small blood vessels in the retina leading to blurred vision. As it’s always discussed, the eyes and feet of diabetics are more prone to damage than any other part. The different conditions a hypertensive can experience are,

  • Eye blood vessel damage (retinopathy)

Retinopathy is a condition resulting in impaired vision or even complete loss of vision. A hypertensive diabetic is more prone to retinopathy.

  • Fluid buildup under the retina (choroidopathy)

In this condition, the fluid builds up under your retina due to a leaky blood vessel. This can even lead to blurred vision or some scarring that can damage your vision.

  • Optic neuropathy

This is a condition in which the optic nerve is damaged due to blocked blood flow damages. It can result in damage of nerve cells in your eyes that causes bleeding of eye or loss of vision.

Follow the Do’s and Don’ts for Hypertensive Diabetics:


  • Constantly monitor your sugar levels.
  • Take foods rich in potassium. The foods that are rich in potassium include avocados, sweet potatoes, bananas, yoghurt and spinach.
  • Include more dietary fibre by eating lots of salads and whole grains.
  • Consult your diabetes educator/expert on a regular basis. Follow all clinical assessment (ECG etc) as recommended by your doctor. A little knowledge is a great thing so monitor your blood pressure on regular intervals.


  • We know it is near to impossible to completely avoid salt intake in the diet. When the body consumes more salt, it holds extra water which stiffens the body. Over time, this results in high blood pressure.
  • Smoking acutely exerts a hypertensive effect. The nicotine in cigarettes narrow down the arteries, which can result in high blood pressure. Control your alcohol intake or do consult your health practitioner /doctor.
  • Drinking alcohol has a very adverse impact on blood pressure levels. More than three drinks can easily result in high blood pressure, and binge drinking has other long-time increases.
  • Stress is the body’s method of telling you to relax. High levels of stress can result in high blood pressure. Try not to be stressed and take out time to relax.


Disclaimer: All information, content, and material of this article is for informational purposes only and are not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider.

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