Managing Type 2 Diabetes: Targets for Blood Pressure and Cholesterol

By American Diabetes Association

Your blood pressure and cholesterol are also closely linked to your diabetes and overall health. People with diabetes are at risk for damage to blood vessels in their heart, eyes, kidneys, feet, and other parts of their body. This can lead to all kinds of problems such as heart attacks, blindness, kidney failure, and amputation.

High blood pressure and bad cholesterol can both exacerbate blood vessel damage, so the goal is to keep these numbers low. Good cholesterol keeps blood vessels healthy. Eating wholesome nutritious foods, losing or maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and taking medications can all reduce blood pressure and bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol.

You’ll have your blood pressure taken at each checkup. Most people with diabetes have a goal of less than 140 mmHg systolic blood pressure and less than 90 mmHg diastolic blood pressure. If your blood pressure is higher than this, your provider may recommend changes to your foods, exercise, or new medications. Reducing salt, quitting smoking, and eating whole-grain foods can lower blood pressure.

You’re not alone if you have high blood pressure. One in three Americans has high blood pressure, and two in three people with diabetes have high blood pressure or take medications to lower it. Keeping an eye on blood pressure is a good idea because high blood pressure increases the risk of stroke and heart disease — problems that people with diabetes already have a higher risk for.

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) occurs when arteries in your legs narrow and become blocked; it can cause pain in your legs, hips, and other parts of the body. Tell your provider if you have these symptoms so she can test for PAD using a simple test that measures blood pressure at your arm and ankle. It’s called the ankle/brachial index.

You’ll have a blood test for your cholesterol when you’re first diagnosed with diabetes, and then every 5 years or more frequently depending on your doctor’s recommendation. You can lower your bad cholesterol and boost your good cholesterol by reducing animal fats and eating plant fats like avocados, olive oil, and legumes. You can also take medications such as statins to lower your bad cholesterol.

Cholesterol is a type of blood fat, and it can clog arteries and lead to heart disease, stroke, and other blood vessel problems. Cholesterol is divided into two types:

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is called “bad” cholesterol because it can build up in your arteries. The lower your LDL cholesterol, the better.
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is called “good” cholesterol because it removes cholesterol from the body. In this case, the higher, the better.

Triglycerides are another blood fat that increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. Again, the lower, the better.