Beyond Blood Sugars: High Blood Pressure and Diabetes

In Australia, diabetes is a growing concern, with recent data from 2021 suggesting that there are over 1.3 million individuals diagnosed with the condition. (1). Diabetes not only affects blood sugar levels, but is also linked to many other health conditions, including high blood pressure. About two-thirds of people who have diabetes also have high blood pressure, which further complicates diabetes management and worsens health risks (2). Understanding the connection between high blood pressure and diabetes is crucial for effective management and prevention. Here we will answer your questions of ‘does diabetes cause high blood pressure?’, unpack the risk factors, and reveal key strategies to get on top of your health.

Does Diabetes Cause High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure and diabetes are strongly linked, increasing the risk for developing heart disease. Diabetes, characterised by elevated blood glucose levels, is diagnosed by two tests: Glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) and fasting blood glucose (3). 

  • HbA1c is a test that measures your average blood sugar levels from the past 2-3 months. An HbA1c of 6.0-6.4% indicates pre-diabetes, while an HbA1c >6.5% is diagnostic of diabetes.
  • Fasting blood sugar levels measure how much glucose (sugar) is in your blood at the time of your test. A level between 6.1-6.9mmol/L suggests prediabetes, while diabetes is likely with levels above 7.0 mmol/L. on two separate tests. 
  • High blood pressure (hypertension) is diagnosed when readings consistently show 130 over 80 mmHg or higher.

High levels of blood sugar can damage blood vessels over time, leading to increased stiffness and, consequently, higher blood pressure. Additionally, insulin resistance, a common feature of type 2 diabetes, can contribute to high blood pressure by altering the way the body handles sodium and disturbing the balance of fluid in the body. Insulin is important for managing blood pressure, as it stimulates the release of nitric oxide, a gas that helps relax blood vessels, and therefore improve blood pressure. Without functioning insulin, the risk of heart disease increases. In fact, studies have shown that up to 80% of individuals with type 2 diabetes also have high blood pressure (4). Living with both high blood pressure and diabetes requires careful management; however, with support from a health professional, you can improve or even reverse these conditions.

What are the Complications of Diabetes?

Poorly controlled diabetes can damage your blood vessels, which not only affects blood pressure, but many other organs in the body. These include (5):

  • Cardiovascular disease: High blood sugars damage blood vessels, leading to atherosclerosis, which can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, and coronary artery disease.

  • Nephropathy: Kidney damage that can lead to kidney failure.

  • Neuropathy: Nerve damage, causing numbness, pain, and weakness, particularly in the hands and feet.

  • Retinopathy: Eye damage that can cause blindness.

  • Foot complications: Infections and ulcers that can lead to foot amputation in severe cases.

  • Skin conditions: Increased susceptibility to skin infections and conditions.

It is important to note that these complications arise after many years of poorly controlled blood sugars. Working with a health professional to get on top of your blood sugars early can prevent the onset of these complications.

Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure and Diabetes

Several risk factors contribute to the development of both high blood pressure and diabetes, including (6):

  • Genetics: Family history of diabetes or high blood pressure increases the risk.

  • Obesity: Higher body weight and a waist circumference greater than 80cm for women and 94cm for men are significant risk factors.

  • Gestational diabetes: If you had diabetes during pregnancy, this can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure later in life.

  • Gender: Men typically have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure and diabetes than women.

  • Sedentary lifestyle: Lack of physical activity contributes to the development of these conditions.

  • Poor diet: Diets high in salt, fat, and sugar increase risk.

  • Age: The risk of both high blood pressure and diabetes are highest in those over the age of 45 years. 

  • Ethnicity: The risk of these conditions is greater amongst African Americans, Latinos, Pacific Islanders and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

How Do I Avoid High Blood Pressure and Diabetes?

Preventing high blood pressure and diabetes requires a multifaceted approach focused on lifestyle modifications:

  • DASH Diet: The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, emphasises  fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, low fat dairy and reducing sodium intake. Consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day, which is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of salt. Ideally, adults should aim to consume no more than 1,500 mg per day (7).

  • Physical Activity: Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity per week, alongside muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days per week (8).

  • Weight Management: Maintain a healthy waist circumference to reduce the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure.

  • Medications: In some instances, medications may be necessary to control blood pressure or manage blood glucose levels.

Please speak with your general practitioner or a qualified health professional regarding diagnosis and appropriate management.


The relationship between high blood pressure and diabetes highlights the need for integrated healthcare strategies to manage these conditions. By understanding the causes, recognising the risk factors, and implementing effective prevention strategies, individuals can minimise the impact of these conditions on their lives. While living with high blood pressure and diabetes is challenging, the right approach can enable individuals to enjoy a long, healthy life. Engaging with healthcare providers for personalised advice and support is crucial for anyone at risk of or currently managing these conditions.

How we reviewed this article:
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Our team consistently oversees developments in the health and wellness sector, ensuring our articles are updated with the latest information as soon as it emerges.

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