high blood pressure

Dealing with diabetes complications

My husband is a diabetic, and I would like to know how long it takes before diabetes affects your liver? Should I be worrying about him?” Alicia Greenway.

Dear Alicia,

You’re wise to think about steps to protect your husband’s liver – diabetes is a lifelong condition that affects the liver and vice versa. Being informed is the first step towards ensuring good liver health. Those with diabetes are at higher risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a condition in which extra fat builds up in the liver even if you drink little or no alcohol. Other medical conditions related to diabetes — including obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure — also raise the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Diabetes does not cause fatty liver disease, but the two tend to occur in the same people because the same conditions cause both problems.

Diabetic-related liver disease can be largely prevented. Good control of blood sugar, maintaining a healthy weight, and having regular check-ups to monitor the effects of medication can help reduce the risk of liver problems.

Strategies for protection against fatty liver disease include:

  • Working with your health care team towards good control of your blood sugar.
  • Losing weight if necessary, and trying to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Taking steps to reduce high blood pressure.
  • Keeping your cholesterol within recommended limits.
  • Not drinking too much alcohol.

Then, let’s talk about worry. “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” Leo Buscaglia.

Having a partner with diabetes puts unique strains on a relationship, but it can also bring you closer together if you learn how to work together. Here are some golden rules for rising to the challenge of managing a chronic disease like diabetes:

  • Get educated
  • Communicate
  • Listen
  • Set shared goals
  • Make room for negative emotions
  • Get support from others
  • Commit to nurturing your relationship.

You can do it if you work together.

– Jeannie Berg, Diabetes Educator


10 Fast facts about high blood pressure

Why high blood pressure is a big risk for those with diabetes:

  1. Blood pressure is the pressure against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood through them.
  2. Blood pressure is measured in two ways: Systolic pressure is the blood pressure when the heart is beating or contracting. Diastolic pressure is the blood pressure between beats when the heart is at rest. The systolic reading is usually written before the diastolic, and is measured in something called millimeters of mercury, for example 120/80mm Hg.
  3. People with diabetes are at greater risk of developing high blood pressure: 3 in 10 people with Type 1 diabetes and 8 in 10 people with Type 2 diabetes develop high blood pressure at some stage.
  4. The risk is increased if you are overweight, eat a lot of salt, don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables, don’t exercise a lot, or drink alcohol excessively. You’re also at greater risk if you have a family history of high blood pressure.
  5. Healthy lifestyle changes are essential in treating high blood pressure, but medication is often necessary if you have diabetes and your blood pressure remains at 140/80mm Hg or higher.
  6. If blood pressure remains high over an extended period of time, it can damage the organs of the body, causing heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease.
  7. Diabetic related conditions like retinopathy (damage to the back of eye) and nephropathy (damage to the kidneys) are more likely in people who have both diabetes and high blood pressure.
  8. Generally, a blood pressure reading of 140/80 mm Hg or higher is considered high for anyone with diabetes.
  9. Blood pressure is higher when you’re anxious, stressed or have just been exercising.
  10. High blood pressure itself has no known symptoms, so can go undetected unless checked regularly. A single test can’t diagnose high blood pressure – you have to have a series of tests (when relaxed) for a real diagnosis. Get tested today!