The American Diabetes Association shares that two out of three people living with diabetes have high blood pressure. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, can raise the risk of heart disease, stroke, and complications including kidney disease and eye problems. It’s also called the “silent killer” because most of the time, high blood pressure doesn’t cause any obvious symptoms, says the American Heart Association. Many people don’t even know that their blood pressure is high until it’s diagnosed.

How high blood pressure is managed

If you have high blood pressure, there’s a good chance that you take medication to help you get and keep your blood pressure at a safe level. Recently, the American Diabetes Association lowered the blood pressure goal for people with diabetes to less than 130/80. (Ask your health care provider about your own blood pressure goal, since yours may be different).

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Besides medication, you may be advised to cut back on your sodium (salt) intake, eat more fruits and vegetables, lose weight, and/or increase your level of physical activity. All these behaviors are important to get you to your blood pressure goal.

Consider other factors

Other habits or behaviors in your life may also be causing your blood pressure to be high. Let’s take a look!

Sleep apnea

Sleep apnea happens when your upper airway becomes blocked, stopping your breathing while you sleep. This prevents you from getting enough oxygen. Airway blockages cause your heart to work harder to pump oxygenated blood throughout the body; when your heart has to work harder, your blood pressure increases.

  • If you have a partner who has told you that you snore, gasp for air during sleep, or have breathing that starts and stops during sleep, or if you notice that you are sleepy during the day, let your provider know. You may need a sleep study to diagnose sleep apnea. Lifestyle changes can help with sleep apnea, and you may need to use a breathing device called a CPAP machine.

Too much added sugar

Sugar lurks in many foods, including candy, baked goods, ice cream, and sugary drinks. Sugar is even found in foods that don’t taste very sweet, such as pasta sauce, salad dressing, and crackers. How does sugar boost blood pressure? Experts believe that high sugar foods and foods that contain refined carbs can contribute to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is linked with high blood pressure.

  • Take stock of hidden sources of sugar in your foods and drinks. Save sweet treats for special occasions and check the Nutrition Facts Label for grams of added sugars (you’ll see this under the Total Carbohydrate section). The lower the added sugars, the better.


We all have times when we might feel lonely. But persistent loneliness can lead to some serious health problems, including a higher risk of dementia, heart disease, stroke, depression, anxiety, and premature death. Another side effect of loneliness is high blood pressure, especially among women.

  • Having a strong network of family and friends helps your health in so many ways. If you are feeling isolated, reach out to your network. If you don’t have many friends or family, look for other ways to get connected with others, such as joining a group or club, volunteering, or adopting a pet. Talking with a therapist might be in order if you are also struggling with depression or social anxiety.

Herbal supplements

Many people use herbal supplements for various reasons. If you do, keep in mind that “natural” products aren’t necessarily safe or without side effects. And some supplements can interact with blood pressure medication, as well. Herbal supplements that can affect your blood pressure include ginseng, guarana, licorice, ma huang (ephedra), and St. John’s wort.

  • Always let your provider know about any dietary supplements that you take or are thinking of taking. You can also run your supplements by your local pharmacist to find out if they are safe and if they might interact with any of your medications.

Thyroid issues

If your thyroid gland isn’t working as well as it should, it can trigger certain health issues. Both overactive and underactive thyroid can cause heart problems, including high blood pressure. Keep in mind, too, that thyroid problems and diabetes are closely linked.

  • Be sure to talk with your provider about getting your thyroid hormones checked at least once a year. If you take thyroid medication, take it as prescribed, especially if you have hyperthyroidism.

Chronic pain

Pain, whether it’s short-lived or ongoing, can raise blood pressure. If pain is acute, say, from an injury, the nervous system responds by releasing chemicals that constrict blood vessels and cause the heart to beat faster, which raises blood pressure. In addition, the hormones cortisol and adrenaline are released, also raising blood pressure. Usually, the rise in blood pressure is temporary. Chronic pain, on the other hand, from conditions such as arthritis, back pain, or neuropathy, can lead to high blood pressure, too. Some medicines that are used for pain relief add fuel to the fire by raising blood pressure. These include NSAIDS (ibuprofen and naproxen sodium), indomethacin, and piroxicam.

  • If pain is lasting more than a few weeks, let your provider know, and ask about treating the underlying cause of your pain. Don’t forget that lifestyle changes can help with pain management, too — these include regular physical activity, weight loss, stress management, and acupuncture.

Want to learn more about high blood pressure? Read “Treating High Blood Pressure” and “Blood Pressure Myths and Facts” and see our “Blood Pressure Chart.”

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