Diabetes and Blood Pressure

As if keeping track of my blood sugar levels, as I have discussed in many previous posts, there are other considerations I follow to manage my diabetes.  The focus is always keeping blood sugar levels low and within a target range.

Blood pressure and cholesterol levels also need to be monitored.  More discussion on cholesterol levels at a later.  For now, let me focus on blood pressure.  Blood pressure is easy to track because there are home devices for measuring blood pressure.  I use an Omron (www.Omronhealthcare.com) blood pressure machine.  These machines are inexpensive and give consistently good results. I occasionally bring my unit to my doctor's office for calibration.  So far, the results from my home unit matches the results from the doctor's office.

So what is the relation between high blood pressure (medically known as hypertension) and diabetes? Diabetes often leads to heart and other circulatory problems because diabetes could harden the arteries.  When arteries harden (also known as atherosclerosis), blood pressure goes up.  If blood pressure is not treated, it could lead to various other complications including blood vessel damage, stroke, heart attack or kidney failure.  All of these are serious complications.

Blood Pressure Levels for Diabetics

Unfortunately, high blood pressure has no symptoms, until it is too late.  So, it is very important that it be checked often.  Blood pressure readings vary, but most people with diabetes should have a reading of no more than 140/80. My doctor says that I should keep my blood pressure to less than 130/70.

The first, or top, number is the “systolic pressure or the pressure in the arteries when your heart beats and fills the arteries with blood. The second, or bottom, number is the “diastolic pressure or the pressure in the arteries when your heart rests between beats, filling itself with blood for the next contraction. (http://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/guide/high-blood-pressure#1)

High Blood Pressure Treatments for Diabetics

My doctor prescribes two high blood pressure medications.  The first is 50 mg of Losartan, once a day.  This is an ARB (angiotensin II receptor blockers) and is used for treating high blood pressure for people with diabetes. The second medication is 5 mg Amlodipine daily.  It is a channel blocker that dilates (widens) the blood vessels to improve the flow of blood. Channel blockers are medications that prevent the entry of calcium, reduce the electrical conduction within the heart, and decrease the force of contraction of the heart muscle cells. These two medicines in combination maintains my blood pressure to within range at 135/70.

Cholesterol and Diabetes

There are two kinds of cholesterol labelled simply as “good” and “bad”.  Diabetes lowers “good” cholesterol levels and increases “bad” cholesterol levels.  This common condition is called diabetic dyslipidemia. The high blood (also known as lipid disorder, hyperlipidemia, or hypercholesterolemia) is a silent disease just like hypertension.  There are no obvious symptoms if you have it.  Too much “bad” cholesterol can cause plaque build-up in your arteries, causing them to clog.  Over time, the plaques that form could break loose and travel in the blood stream.  Along the way, it could be “stuck” and cause major disruptions to the blood flow and cause either a heart attack or stroke.

Studies show a link between insulin resistance, which is a precursor to type 2 diabetes, and diabetic dyslipidemia, atherosclerosis and blood vessel disease. These conditions can develop even before diabetes is diagnosed.  (http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG).  Therefore, it is very important that cholesterol levels are monitored regularly.

I take 10 mg of Atorvastatin daily to control my cholesterol.  Atorvastatin is in a class of medications called HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors (statins). It works by slowing the production of cholesterol in the body to decrease the amount of cholesterol that may build up on the walls of the arteries and block blood flow to the heart, brain, and other parts of the body. (https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a600045.html)

A bit of good news is that in 1993, the FDA (Federal Drug Administration) approved a home cholesterol test.  The test is conducted by pricking the finger with a small lancet to draw blood.  The drawn blood is placed on a chemically treated paper.

Unfortunately, these tests do not provide a total picture of ones' lipid levels (“good” and “bad” cholesterol).  At this point, only lab tests done at the doctor's office or regular lab can give a true picture of cholesterol.

Final Conclusion

Finally, learning about the related complications from diabetes helps me manage my diabetes. A very complicated disease affects many lives around the world.  The disease causes many complications.  By doing research on this disease, and publishing this blog, I hope that I can share my experiences with others.