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High blood pressure

People with diabetes are much more likely to develop heart disease and/or experience a stroke at an earlier age than people without diabetes. High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) along with diabetes puts added stress on your body. This can cause damage to your heart, brain, kidneys, and eyes.

Blood pressure

Blood pressure is a measurement of the force of your blood against the wall of your blood vessels. There are often no signs of high blood pressure. This means that you may have high blood pressure and not know it.

Blood pressure is measured with two numbers a "top"(systolic) number and a "lower" (diastolic) number. The top number is the pressure when your heart contracts and pushes blood out. The bottom number is the pressure when the heart relaxes between beats. The recommended target for people with diabetes is less than 130/80 mm Hg.

If you have diabetes, get your blood pressure checked every time you visit your health-care team.

How to control blood pressure

There are many things you can do to manage your blood pressure. Healthy eating, physical activity, managing weight and stress, and taking your medications as prescribed can all help.

Healthy eating

With time, your taste buds will adjust to the natural flavours of food without added salt.

Talk to a registered dietitian to learn more about healthy eating.

Healthy eating tips
Choose Avoid
Vegetables and fruits (fresh or frozen without added salt) more often Limit processed, smoked and cured foods
Low-fat (one per cent or skim) dairy products Adding salt at the table and use a minimum amount in cooking
Legumes (dried beans, peas and lentils) more often (rinse canned beans with water) Seasonings that contain the words ‘salt’ or ‘sodium’, such as garlic salt, celery salt, Kosher salt, sea salt or monosodium glutamate (MSG)
Whole grains, such as whole-wheat breads, cereal, pasta and brown rice Limit frozen convenience foods and fast-food restaurant meals
Lean meats and poultry without added salt
To flavour your foods with herbs, spices, fresh garlic, garlic powder, onion powder, lemon or vinegar instead of salt
To eat fish at least twice a week (fresh, frozen or canned without added salt)
Unsalted or ‘no added salt’ items (e.g. crackers, nuts)

Physical activity

Build physical activity into your day. Regular physical activity can improve blood pressure and heart health. Aim for 150 minutes of physical activity per week.

Check with your health-care team about the exercise routine that is suitable for you. Both aerobic and resistance exercises are recommended for people with diabetes.

Be a non-smoker

Smoking affects blood pressure in two ways: Nicotine in cigarette smoke causes blood vessels to narrow, which increases blood pressure.

Smoking makes blood pressure medications work less effectively. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist about local programs and medications that may help you to quit.

Manage stress

Stress can affect your blood pressure and your blood sugar. Learning how to cope with stress is important to improve your blood pressure. Try physical activity, socializing, laughter, and healthy eating. Avoid unhealthy stress-busters, such as smoking, alcohol use, or poor food choices. Help is available if you need it; contact Diabetes Canada or speak with your health-care team. Remember to make time for yourself!

Limit alcohol intake

Alcohol raises blood pressure by interfering with the blood flow to and from the heart. Drinking alcohol can also lead to both high and low blood sugar, and possibly high triglycerides. Talk to your doctor to see if alcohol is a choice for you.


When lifestyle changes are not enough, your doctor may prescribe medication. Most people need two or more drugs to bring down their blood pressure to a healthy level. It is important to take your medications as prescribed. Try to take them at the same time every day.

Treating high blood pressure may require time, patience and care by both you and your doctor. Your doctor might have to try different medications or combinations of medications to see which ones work the best for you with the fewest side effects. It is important to continue taking your medications, even when your blood pressure is at target.

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions about your medications.

Additional resources

We are here to support you in lowering your blood pressure with these healthy eating and physical activity resources.

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