Diabetes and Heart Health: Choices That Help Lower Blood Pressure
Because diabetes is associated with increased risk of heart and kidney disease, it’s important to keep blood pressure values within normal range.
Fortunately, lifestyle choices have a lot to do with blood pressure, so whether we are trying to maintain or achieve healthy blood pressure numbers, the goal can often be attained without resorting to medication:
- Though consuming small amounts of alcohol can potentially lower blood pressure, drinking more than moderate amounts can raise it several points. Women, and men over 65 are recommended to have no more than one alcoholic drink per day; for men under 65 the suggested daily limit is two.
- Keeping our sodium intake below 2,300 mg per day is generally sufficient for maintaining healthy blood pressure, but those sensitive to the effects of salt will need to limit sodium intake more. We can minimize dietary salt by eating fewer processed foods, using more herbs and spices to flavor food instead of salt, and opting for low-sodium items and beverages when they are available.
- Preparing meals rich in whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, and cooking with healthy fats (e.g., olive oil, coconut oil) are great for our overall well-being. This type of diet will also assure we get plenty of potassium that minimizes the effects of sodium on blood pressure.
- Regular exercise is a proven way to lower blood pressure. At least 30 minutes most days of the week of activities such as walking, cycling, jogging, dancing, or swimming is recommended.
- When our weight goes up, our blood pressure often follows. Losing just ten pounds can significantly lower an overweight individual’s blood pressure.
- Chronic stress contributes to high blood pressure; even occasional stress does if we cope by indulging in unhealthy habits. We can reduce our stress by making time to enjoy personal interests, acting to resolve solvable problems, letting go of things outside our control, and practicing some type of relaxation activity such as meditation, Qi gong, breathing exercises, or visualization.
- Caffeine has little to no significant effect on blood pressure in most regular coffee drinkers, but some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others. Measuring blood pressure before, and within 30 minutes of consuming a caffeinated beverage is a simple way for concerned people to check their caffeine sensitivity.
- Blood pressure increases while people smoke, and for many minutes after they finish a cigarette. Quitting smoking helps high blood pressure return to normal.
- Regular doctor visits are important for monitoring blood pressure and making wise decisions about its management, but also consider asking your doctor about home blood pressure monitoring. Home monitoring can help people determine which lifestyle changes are benefitting their blood pressure.
Whether managing blood pressure through lifestyle choices or medication (or both) consider joining a support group if you need encouragement beyond what family and friends can provide. It’s always validating to be with others going through the same thing we are, and support groups are an excellent place to learn about helpful resources, and get practical coping tips.