Try these simple changes for major benefits
If you have diabetes, you’ve probably already started counting carbs and exercising more to keep your blood sugar stable.
But you may be neglecting another, often silent problem that can go hand-in-hand with diabetes: high blood pressure. Also known as hypertension, the condition occurs in as many as two-thirds of people with diabetes.
If you have both conditions and either is out of control, your risk of blood vessel damage increases, heightening the likelihood of complications like heart attack, stroke or kidney failure. If both conditions are unmanaged, the risk is even greater.
Here are six suggestions to help keep your blood pressure in check.
1. Get up and move
Exercise is an important part of any healthy lifestyle. It strengthens the heart and makes it pump more efficiently, so it is particularly critical if you have hypertension.
To improve cardiovascular health and maintain your weight, try to get 150 minutes each week of aerobic activity. You want to spread this over at least three days, with no more than two consecutive days without exercise. This can include walking, cycling and swimming.
2. Eat fresh, natural foods
If you find yourself struggling to figure out which foods in the grocery aisles have too much sodium, here’s a good tip to follow: Food in its natural state is best. Skip over processed foods and opt for fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean meats.
3. Reduce salt
If you are planning to start a low-sodium diet (no more than 1,500 mg per day), the first step is to get rid of the salt shaker. In its place, use salt-free herbs, spices and other seasonings.
It’s also important to watch for hidden sodium in the foods you eat. The following items are typically high in sodium so try to avoid them:
- Processed foods, such as hot dogs, packaged lunch meats and salami
- Canned foods
- Prepared or frozen dinners (even ones labeled “lean” or “healthy” may still be high in sodium)
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When eating vegetables that aren’t fresh, opt for frozen over canned. Foods labeled low- or reduced-sodium are usually good options.
4. Take your medication
If you have diabetes and high blood pressure, you may be taking medications that help relax blood vessels so they don’t constrict.
The important thing about these medications is that you must take them regularly. Forgetting just one day can result in a high blood pressure pretty quickly so be sure to resume any missed doses as soon as possible. If this is an area where you have trouble, it is worth making an effort to fix it.
5. Limit alcohol
If you have diabetes, it is important to learn how to monitor your alcohol intake. First, talk to your health care provider to make sure it is alright for you to consume any alcohol. This is particularly important if you also have hypertension, because consuming large amounts of alcohol often increases blood pressure.
The common recommendation for moderate alcohol consumption is one drink daily for women and up to two drinks daily for men. One drink equals 4 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1 ounce of distilled spirits.
6. Don’t smoke
If you are a smoker, quitting will greatly reduce your heart disease risk. When you smoke, your blood vessels constrict, which can raise blood pressure and also cause the release of hormones that work against insulin. This may raise blood sugar or increase your risk of getting diabetes if you don’t already have it.
Another important thing about quitting smoking is to be ready to work to keep your weight down after you stop. But take it one step at a time. Your doctor can help you create a plan to keep your weight in check while kicking the smoking habit.
As you work to keep your blood pressure in check, remember to talk to your health care provider about your target blood pressure goals. There are overall guidelines, but each patient may have different targets suggested by their provider.
Source: Cleveland Clinic/ Sue Cotey and Andrea Harris, RNs
Do you have questions or feedback about living with High Blood Pressure AND Diabetes? Please leave your comment below.