What lifestyle changes can control blood pressure in people with diabetes?

If you have diabetes, lifestyle changes can help control your blood pressure as well as your blood glucose and blood lipids (cholesterol) levels. From the steps below, decide which steps you would be willing to try. If you need more information about how to make these changes, talk with your healthcare team.

Make wise food choices:

  • Eat a serving of fruit at each meal.
  • Eat one or two servings of vegetables at lunch and at dinner.
  • Switch to low-fat or fat-free dairy products (such as low-fat cheese and skim milk).
  • Eat whole-grain breads (such as whole-wheat bread) and cereals.
  • Eat nuts or peanut butter sometimes.
  • Choose lean meats and meat substitutes (such as chicken without the skin, fish, lean beef, such as flank steak or chuck roast, boiled ham or pork tenderloin).
  • Cook using low-fat methods such as baking, roasting, broiling or grilling.
  • Add little or no salt to your food at the table and during cooking.
  • Try herbs and spices instead of salt.
  • Check food labels and choose foods with less than 400 mg (milligrams) of sodium per serving.

Lose weight or take steps to prevent weight gain:

  • Cut down on calories and fat.
  • Try to be more physically active.

Be physically active:

  • Check with your doctor to find out which activities will be safe for you.
  • Try to do a total of about 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, most days of the week. If you're just starting out, start with 5 minutes a day and gradually add more time.

Be careful with alcohol and smoking:

  • Talk with your healthcare team about whether it's wise to drink alcoholic beverages. If and when you drink alcoholic beverages, limit yourself to one serving a day (for women) or two servings a day (for men).
  • Quit smoking

High blood pressure is a silent problem—you won't know you have it unless your healthcare provider checks your blood pressure. If you have diabetes, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that you have your blood pressure checked at every office visit, or at least 2 to 4 times a year.

Ruth Frechman
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

What's the best way to control blood pressure? Exercise! Your heart is a muscle. Exercising will make it strong and help lower blood pressure. It's also important to limit sodium to 1,500 mg a day. Of course, don't forget to take your blood pressure medication.

Jessica Crandall
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

The best way to control blood pressure is to consume a lower sodium diet and exercise regularly. Sodium is found in many foods but especially in pre-packaged or long shelf life foods. For example: canned soups, seasoning packets, pre-packaged meals, frozen dinners, condiments, pickles/olives, etc. Try to consume less of these items and more fresh foods. Don't forget to exercise—this will help control your blood pressure. 30 minutes, 5 days per week is ideal; work yourself up to that goal.

Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

First and foremost would be to add regular exercise. A diet consisting of healthy fats, lean protein, lots of non starchy vegetables would be next. Avoid fried foods, refined sweets and DO NOT SMOKE. Keep your sodium intake under 2000 mg per day.

Amy Jamieson-Petonic
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Lifestyle changes that can help control blood pressure include not smoking, being physically active (30 minutes most days of the week) maintaining normal stress levels, and following the DASH diet. The DASH diet is full of wonderful, healthy foods that are high in potassium, and potassium has been shown to help control blood pressure.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.