Charity Center

Diabetes & High Blood Pressure
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Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of the arteries as it circulates in the body. High blood pressure occurs when blood vessels become narrow or stiff, forcing the heart to pump harder to push blood through the body. High blood pressure or hypertension is when the force of the blood against the artery walls becomes too high.

Blood Pressure: Measurement

Blood pressure is measured with a blood pressure cuff around the upper arm. This cuff is pumped up and then let down while listening for the pulse sound. Blood pressure is measured as two numbers—an upper number (systolic pressure) and a bottom number (diastolic pressure). The systolic pressure is the pressure when the heart is beating. The diastolic pressure is the pressure when the heart is resting between beats.

A person can have high blood pressure for years without ever knowing it. The only way to tell if a person's blood pressure is too high is to have it measured.

Blood pressure should be checked at least once a year by a doctor or medical healthcare provider. It is important to follow the recommendations of a doctor or clinic staff regarding how often blood pressure should be checked, especially if it is too high or too low.

High Blood Pressure: Causes

Blood pressure can be affected when a person does not exercise, is overweight or overuses salt or alcohol. Members of certain racial groups and individuals who have family members with high blood pressure are at higher risk for developing blood pressure problems.

High blood pressure is more common in men than women for people under the age of 45. Between ages 45 and 54 the risk is equal for both men and women. After age 54, more women than men are reported to have high blood pressure.

High Blood Pressure: Is It a Problem?

A person with undetected high blood pressure may not feel ill or even have any symptoms.  Undetected high blood pressure is a serious problem because it can damage the kidneys and other organs in the body. Over time, blood pressure that is too high can add to the workload of the heart. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can also increase the risk for having a stroke. Blood pressure that is under control lowers the risk of developing these complications.

It is very important that a person has both a urine test to check for protein and a simple blood test measuring creatinine at least once a year. The results of the blood test help determine how well a person’s kidneys are functioning by calculating what is called the glomerular filtration rate (GFR). 

Knowing a person’s GFR along with the results of the urine test are often an effective way for a doctor to detect kidney damage long before there are symptoms or complications.

Blood Pressure: Treatment

A doctor or healthcare provider will recommend a blood pressure goal and a treatment plan that is specific for a person based on the results of both laboratory tests and a physical exam.

Although high blood pressure cannot be cured, it can be controlled.

The doctor may ask the individual to make certain changes in their lifestyle, especially diet. A person can ask for a referral to a dietitian for help. A dietitian is a specialist who can explain the best ways to eat in a way that is healthier. Dietitians can help a person understand nutrition information and food labels, portion size and meal planning. A dietitian can also recommend spices/seasonings, cooking methods or help to change favorite recipes to make them healthier. Family members who help with grocery shopping or cooking should join in the visits with the dietitian. The services of a registered dietitian may be covered by health insurance.

A doctor can recommend an exercise routine that can help with weight loss or overall personal fitness/health. Doctors and clinic staff also have information and resources about tobacco use and how to quit smoking. Smoking and high blood pressure together increase the risk of complications such as heart attack and strokes.

In addition to diet and exercise, medicine may be needed to get blood pressure under control. Often a combination of different medicines will be needed. It is important to fill all prescriptions and to take medicine exactly as the doctor recommends.

A pharmacist is also a professional who can answer questions about prescription medicine, side effects or even how to remember to take the medicine on a certain schedule. It is important to talk to the pharmacist when purchasing vitamins, supplements or over-the-counter products for colds, cough, pain or sleep. The pharmacist understands what medicine and products should not be used together.

It is very important to contact your doctor or healthcare provider immediately if there are any side effects like headaches, dizziness, tiredness, palpitations, ankle swelling or sexual problems. Never change the way a medication is taken without first asking the doctor or clinic medical staff. Never abruptly stop taking any prescription medication.  

Ask the doctor or clinic staff about the benefits of purchasing and using a blood pressure machine to monitor blood pressure at home.

Blood Pressure: Free Resources

  • Smoking cessation (quitting):Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line: 1-800-784-8669 or 1-800-QUITNOW.
  • Medical identification necklace or bracelet: FREE OF CHARGE to adults living with high blood pressure. (Residents of Wisconsin only, please.) Download the form and mail to the National Kidney Foundation of Wisconsin.
  • Brochure: HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE AND CHRONIC KIDNEY DISEASE  (Free): Order online; Call 414-897-8669 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • DVD: The Links to Chronic Kidney Disease: Diabetes, High Blood Pressure and Family History (Free): Call: 414-897-8669 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Living Well with Chronic Conditions (local self-management classes). Meet other people or caregivers who want to learn how to better manage living with a chronic health condition. Classes available in most Wisconsin counties throughout the year. Class leaders are trained healthcare professionals and individuals who are personally living with one or more chronic diseases. Many of these classes are offered free of charge or have scholarship assistance available. Visit: for a schedule and local classes. (These workshops are listed as "Living.")


Diabetes is a disease that affects how the body makes or uses insulin. Insulin controls the amount of sugar in the blood. Insulin helps the sugar (glucose) in the blood move into the body’s cells for energy. Without enough insulin, cells are starved and sugar builds up in the blood. When sugar builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, it can cause damage to the kidneys, heart, eyes and nerves.   

There are two types of diabetes: Type 1 or Type 2. The most common is Type 2. When a person has Type 2 diabetes, their body makes insulin, but it does not use the insulin it makes properly. To determine if a person has diabetes, a doctor will do a blood test to check blood sugar levels.

Many men and women do not realize they are at risk to develop diabetes. People who are African American, Latino, Asian American, Native Americans, Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders are more at risk to develop diabetes.

A person should not wait for an annual doctor’s visit if experiencing one or more of these symptoms:

  • Increased thirst or urination
  • Hunger
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Blurred vision
  • Weight loss that is unusual
  • Tingling in hands or feet
  • Sleepiness that is unexplained

Living With Diabetes: A Helpful Checklist

Diabetes is a common, controllable condition that never goes away once diagnosed. However, it is possible to still “live well” with the condition. No matter what type of diabetes a person has, it is important to know how to manage it. People with diabetes can be just as healthy as people without diabetes, but it takes work and commitment.  

Diabetes: Self-Care Basics

A  person with diabetes should know:

  • his/her personal blood sugar goal
  • how to test blood sugar
  • how often to test blood sugar
  • what blood sugar numbers mean
  • what to do if blood sugars are too high or low
  • how to dispose of lancets or needles (Do not use the regular garbage for disposal. (For information about sharps containers contact: (888) 936-7463 [Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources].)
  • who to contact with questions or concerns

Living Well: A Useful Checklist

Know the type of food to buy and prepare. Portion size is important.

  • A dietitian or Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) can help make a personalized food/meal plan.
  • To find a Diabetes Educator in the community: (800) 338-3633.
  •  To find more information about nutrition: (800) 877-1600 or

Move, stay active and stick to an exercise schedule each week. Physical activity may help lower blood sugar.

  • Check with a doctor before beginning any activity.
  • Typical Target: 150 minutes/week spread over at least 3 days.
  • Wear shoes that fit properly.
  • Feet should be checked every day for blisters or redness. Alert the doctor or clinic staff if there are problems.

Fill all prescriptions.

  • Do not be afraid to ask the doctor or pharmacist about the medicine that is being prescribed.
  • Be prepared for holidays, vacations and emergencies. Make sure that there is medicine/supplies available.
  • Be sure to talk to the pharmacist before buying or using any over-the-counter medication.

Take medicine when and how the doctor/healthcare provider prescribes.

  •  Know what the side effects of medicine might be.
  •  Do not wait to contact the doctor or healthcare provider if there are side effects.

Blood sugar should be tested as often as the doctor/healthcare provider recommends.

  • Always have a supply of blood sugar testing supplies on hand.
  • Check with the doctor/healthcare provider about carrying quick-acting sugar.

Always contact the doctor or clinic staff with questions or problems. 

Wear a medical ID bracelet or necklace. 

  • Order from the National Kidney Foundation of Wisconsin. FREE.

Enroll in a local Living Well with Diabetes (self-management) program.

  • Meet other people or caregivers who want to learn how to better manage living with diabetes day to day.                        
  • Classes are led by healthcare professionals who specialize in diabetes care and people who are actually living with diabetes.
  • Classes are held in communities throughout Wisconsin. Many of these classes are offered free of charge or have scholarships available, if there is a registration fee.
  • Visit: for a schedule and local classes. (These workshops are listed as “Diabetes” in the schedule.)

Laboratory Tests and Other Exams

A1C – This is a blood test that is done to check the overall blood sugar control for the past 2-3 months. This test should be done at least one time every 3-6 months.

Fasting Lipid Panel – This is a blood test to check the amount of fat in the blood. A person with diabetes should have this test one time per year.

Kidney Function Test-Serum Creatinine – This blood test is used to estimate the GFR (glomerular filtration rate). The eGFR tells how well the kidneys are filtering waste and if the kidneys are damaged. This blood test should be done one time per year.

  • Order a FREE copy of the brochure: GFR-A Key to Understanding How Well Your Kidneys Are Working. Order online; Call: 414-897-8669 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Kidney Function Test-Albumin-to-Creatinine Ratio – This urine test checks for micro albuminuria (tiny amounts of protein in the urine.). This urine test should be done 1 time per year.

Exams and Shots

Physical Exam – Have a complete physical every year. There should also be a special “diabetes” visit once every 3-6 months specifically to talk to the doctor/healthcare team.

Dilated Retinal Eye Exam Visit an eye doctor (optometrist) at least one time each year. 

Dental Exam Visit a dentist for a complete exam and teeth cleaning every 6 months.

Foot Exam Feet should be checked at each doctor’s office visit. Shoes and socks should be removed.

  • It is also important to check both feet each day.
  • Contact the doctor or clinic if there are any changes to the feet, especially if a cut or blister does not heal immediately.

Blood Pressure Check Blood pressure should be checked at every doctor’s office visit.

  • Ask the doctor or clinic staff about the benefits of purchasing and using a blood pressure machine to monitor blood pressure at home.

Flu, Pneumonia and Hepatitis B Shot – The doctor or clinic staff can discuss if these shots would be beneficial.

Diabetes: Effects on the Kidneys

Diabetes affects blood vessels throughout the entire body. When the blood vessels in the kidneys are injured, the kidneys cannot clean the body’s blood properly. The body will retain water and salt, which can result in weight gain and ankle swelling. Damage to the kidneys may also cause protein to be leaked into urine and extra waste materials to build up in the blood.

Diabetes damages nerves in the body which could affect the bladder. Nerve damage may cause difficulty for the bladder to empty. A full bladder creates extra pressure that can injure the kidneys.

Learn more. Order any of the following from the NATIONAL KIDNEY FOUNDATION OF WISCONSIN.   Call: 414-897-8669 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

All materials are FREE.

This material does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. Please consult a doctor or healthcare clinic for specific treatment recommendations.

Last modified 2016-12-09 21:36:09