High blood pressure is a serious condition that has been labelled as a “silent killer” due to the fact there are usually no obvious signs of blood pressure rising or falling below normal levels.

In fact, it is relatively common for people to be diagnosed with diabetes and hypertension at the same time.

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the term used to refer to the pressure of blood in your arteries as it’s being pumped by the heart.

Keeping blood pressure under control is especially important for people with diabetes, as higher blood pressure is a key risk factor in developing serious diabetic complications, such as heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.

What are the symptoms of high blood pressure (hypertension)?

High blood pressure generally has no symptoms and so a blood pressure check is needed to see whether your blood pressure is higher than normal.

The only time when high blood pressure may produce symptoms is if you have very high blood pressure levels, a condition known as hypertensive crisis. Such symptoms include:

  • Severe headache
  • Nosebleeds
  • Shortness of breath
  • Severe anxiety
  • Black outs

What is defined as high and low blood pressure?

Note that people with diabetes are given stricter blood pressure targets than people without diabetes because the combination of diabetes and elevated blood pressure levels significantly raises the risk of long term health complications.

The following table shows the blood pressure targets for people with and without diabetes.
Normal Prehypertension High blood pressure
Under 120/80 mmHg 120/80 to 139/89 mmHg 140/90 mmHg and over

What are the symptoms of low blood pressure (hypotension)?

As with high blood pressure, usually there are no obvious signs that your blood pressure is below normal.

If you do experience symptoms as a result of low blood pressure, these may include:

Symptoms of low blood pressure may be felt when changing position, such as standing up. This is known as postural hypotension.

Symptoms of low blood pressure may also appear after meals, particularly in older people. This is referred to as postprandial hypotension.

Diagnosing high or low blood pressure

High or low blood pressure can be diagnosed by having a blood pressure check performed. This will usually involve a sphygmomanometer, a device which includes a cuff which is put round your upper arm and inflated and then deflated.

A reading can be given as soon the test is done.

Treatment for high blood pressure

Treatment for high blood pressure will include lifestyle changes such as:

  • Eating less salt
  • Cutting down on alcohol intake
  • Quitting smoking
  • Taking more physical activity
  • Losing weight

Medication may be required if lifestyle changes do not sufficiently lower blood pressure levels.

Treatment for low blood pressure

Low blood pressure will often not be treated unless it causes problems. If low blood pressure causes problematic symptoms then specific changes to daily living may be needed.

Medication is not usually taken to raise blood pressure.