High Blood Pressure

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: March 2021.

If you have diabetes, you are twice as likely to have high blood pressure than someone without diabetes. Having both diabetes and high blood pressure makes you 4 times as likely to develop heart disease than someone without both conditions.1

Learning what blood pressure is, what your numbers mean, current guidelines, and how to manage high pressure will give you the tools you need to get and keep your blood pressure in the healthy range.

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the force of blood flow inside your blood vessels. This pressure is measured and recorded as 2 numbers, such as 120/80.2

What do the numbers mean?

Using 120/80 as an example, the top number (120) represents the pressure or force of blood flow through your blood vessels as your heart beats and pushes the blood through the heart. This number is referred to as systolic blood pressure.2

The bottom number, in our example 80, is the pressure in the vessels when the heart rests in between beats. The bottom number is also known as diastolic pressure.2

Guidelines for high blood pressure

The American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) say that high blood pressure should be treated when it is 130/80. This is a change from the previous recommendation to treat high blood pressure at 140/90.3

According to the guidelines, ranges of blood pressure include:2

  • Healthy – Below 120/80
  • Early high – Between 120/80 and 140/90
  • High – 140/90 or higher

Who gets high blood pressure?

Due to the changes in these guidelines, the number of people with high blood pressure has changed. Now more than 100 million Americans are defined as having high blood pressure. This is nearly half of all adults in the United States. Because aging can contribute to high blood pressure, this number is expected to climb due to our aging population.4 Worldwide, high blood pressure impacts nearly 1 in 3 adults and is the most common reason for heart disease-related deaths.4

Complications with high blood pressure & type 2 diabetes

The heart has to work harder if you have high blood pressure. This increases the risk for heart disease and diabetes. High blood pressure raises your risk for heart disease and heart attack, stroke, eye problems, and kidney disease.2

High blood pressure is often silent. You will likely not know you have it until your blood pressure is taken. Monitoring your blood pressure at your doctor visits is important. Your doctor may also recommend that you also check your blood pressure at home. This can help you and your doctor make sure your blood pressure is within an acceptable range.1

How to manage high blood pressure

The first step in managing your high blood pressure is to talk to your doctor and come up with a plan. Based on research, certain lifestyle choices can be made to help you manage your blood pressure if you have type 2 diabetes. Making more heart-healthy choices may lower your risk. This may include:2

  • Eating a healthy diet with whole-grain foods
  • Choosing lower-salt foods and avoid over-seasoning your food
  • Limiting your alcohol consumption
  • Staying active and exercising more
  • Quitting smoking

You may need drugs to help you get and maintain healthy blood pressure. Your doctor will recommend the best treatment for you. Knowing your blood pressure numbers and having regular office visits will help you manage your heart health.

For additional information on heart disease and diabetes, visit our Heart Health hub.

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