When your heart beats, it pumps blood around your body to give it the energy and oxygen it needs. As the blood moves, it pushes against the sides of the blood vessels. The strength of this pushing is your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is too high, it puts extra strain on your arteries (and your heart) and this may lead to heart attacks and strokes.

You cannot feel your blood pressure that is there are no “tell-tale” symptoms to alert you that your blood pressure may be high. If you are a person living with diabetes or have been diagnosed with “pre-diabetes” (Impaired Glucose Tolerance or Impaired Fasting Glucose), it is essential that you have your blood pressure check regularly.  Most pharmacies or your doctor will check your blood pressure for you.

When you go to your doctor or pharmacist to have your blood pressure checked, they will make you sit down and be still for a few minutes.  The will then put a “cuff” around your arm [normally just above your elbow joint], and they will pump air into the cuff.  They will then let the air out of the “cuff” slowly and will watch a little monitor which will “blip” once and then again a second time.

Your blood pressure is measured in “millimeters mercury” (mmHg), and you will be given your result as 120/80mmHg

The first “blip” that they see (or hear), is the TOP number, and this is your SYSTOLIC Blood pressure: This is the highest level or pressure your blood pressure will reach when your heart beats to pump blood out, and the second “blip” is the BOTTOM number which is your DIASTOLIC Blood pressure: the lowest blood pressure you will reach as your heart relaxes.

Blood Pressure Measurements:

Blood Pressure Reading What it means Action

Less than 120 over 80


Your blood pressure is normal and healthy

Follow a healthy lifestyle:

Regular exercise, healthy eating, and moderate salt consumption.

Between 121 over 81 and

139 over 89

(121/81mmHg – 139/89mmHg)

Your blood pressure is above “normal”, this is known as “prehypertension”

Start following a healthy lifestyle: Start exercising, follow a healthy eating plan lose weight if you need to, and cut down on salt consumption.

140 over 90 and higher


You have high blood pressure (hypertension)

See your doctor, change your lifestyle and take the medication that your doctor will prescribe for you.


If you have diabetes and high blood pressure, your risk of having a heart attack or stroke is significantly increased.  Make sure that you take your medication for your diabetes AND your hypertension every day, check your blood pressure (BP) regularly: your blood pressure should be less than or equal to 130/80mmHg. Check your blood sugar (glucose) levels regularly and aim for and HbA1c less than 7%.

For more information on high blood pressure visit http://www.hypertension.org.za/ website.