Heart for Household Well being column: The shocking relationship between blood stress and diabetes


By Denise Provencher

JACKSON, MI – Diabetes and high blood pressure on their own can pose serious health risks, including kidney failure, stroke, and heart disease. However, there is a relationship between the two that when put together can cause even greater complications.

Uncontrolled diabetes damages the arteries, making them more prone to hardening and calcification, which leads to high blood pressure. When the arteries get hard, they are not elastic and the pressure increases. Likewise, high blood pressure – along with obesity and low HDL cholesterol (heart healthy) – contribute to the metabolic syndrome, also known as pre-diabetes, which increases the risk of diabetes.

Good blood circulation is vital to our health, and uncontrolled diabetes can narrow capillaries and ultimately lead to tissue damage. Since blood flows all over our body, impaired blood flow can affect our brain, heart, eyes, kidneys and nerves – every organ and every cell.

Both diabetes and high blood pressure, if not properly controlled, lead to serious complications. Maintaining healthy blood pressure and treating diabetes are critical to staying healthy and reducing the risk of kidney failure, blindness, heart attack, stroke, and death.

It is important to reduce your risk of diabetes and high blood pressure by working with your doctor to keep your health going. Here are some ways to stay healthy:

Regular Exercise: While some may flinch when they hear the word “exercise,” you don’t have to run a marathon to get active. Start by incorporating more exercise into your daily routines, whether you’re walking around the block or getting up from your desk a few times an hour to walk around the room. For people with diabetes and high blood pressure, it can be beneficial to only walk 15 to 20 minutes a day. Weight lifting builds muscles that also help burn fat and fight obesity.

Eat healthy: Changing your diet is critical to fighting obesity. Limiting sugar and carbohydrates is key to treating diabetes. Limiting sodium in high blood pressure can help control these levels. Talk to your doctor to determine your ideal daily calorie count and aim for a balanced diet. Limit fast food to the occasional treat. Get plenty of fruits and vegetables, as well as the right amounts of protein (lean meat and fish) and whole grains. Increasing the amount of fiber in your diet often helps with diabetes as well.

Increase Your (Good) Cholesterol: Many people think that avoiding high cholesterol is key to maintaining good health, but it’s more complicated. Not all cholesterol is created equal. HDL cholesterol is good for your heart, and increasing it will help protect your heart. It is also important to keep your LDL cholesterol low. Avocados and olive oil can raise HDL cholesterol levels, as can beans (legumes), fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts (handfuls), and fish. These are staples of the Mediterranean Diet, a good general diet to strive for. Search online for easy and tasty recipes.

Focus On Self-Care: Taking care of yourself and managing stress can keep your blood pressure down. Take a few minutes each day to meditate, sit with a good book and herbal tea, or engage in a calming hobby. Maintaining your mental health can have significant physical health benefits.

Talk to Your Doctor: It is important to schedule physical procedures every year, even if you are in excellent health. However, it’s even more important to have follow-up exams and work with your doctor if you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure or diabetes. Monitoring and maintaining healthy blood pressure and blood sugar is critical to preventing serious illness. Learning about your illness can also be beneficial. Everyone is different; Talk to your doctor to come up with a plan for maintaining your health.

– Denise Provencher, Medical Assistant, works at the Family Health Center – Northwest School Health Center