Middle-aged adults recently diagnosed with diabetes and hypertension have some time to effect lifestyle changes to control their high blood pressure (BP).
If they make such changes within a year, the loss to their life expectancy is only two days. But if they wait 10 years, it cuts down life expectancy by almost five months, according to a new study.
High BP is especially damaging for diabetics, raising their risk of stroke, coronary artery disease, kidney failure, vision loss and amputations.
"For newly diagnosed patients, this means we have time," said study author Neda Laiteerapong, instructor of medicine at the University of Chicago.
"Most patients would prefer to control their blood pressure through diet and exercise rather than with medications, and it can take months to learn how to change old habits and master new skills.
"Our results indicate that it's OK to spend from six months to a year, perhaps even longer, to make the difficult lifestyle changes that are necessary and will pay off in the long run."
Both the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the National Institutes of Health recommend a lower BP target for patients with diabetes than for the general public.
Two out of three adults with diabetes, however, never reach that goal. Others are delayed by what the authors call "clinical inertia," a disinclination by patients to implement lifestyle changes or reluctance by their doctors to push additional medications.
Among those who are prescribed blood pressure drugs, at least 20 percent of patients with diabetes do not stick to their treatments.