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Got Diabetes and High Blood Pressure? 9 Diet Tips

By Stephanie Booth
WebMD Feature

Two out of three people with diabetes also have high blood pressure. Keeping your diet in check -- counting carbs, limiting sugar, eating less salt -- is key. You can still eat well and manage your conditions with these easy tips.

1. Get zesty.

Since you have high blood pressure, you should get no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. That's less than a teaspoon.

So retrain taste buds. Instead of reaching for the saltshaker, flavor food with citrus zest, garlic, rosemary, ginger, jalapeno peppers, oregano, or cumin.

Cooking at home also helps. “If you’re eating something from a bag or box or off a restaurant menu, chances are you’re getting too much sodium,” says Janet Bond Brill, PhD, RD, author of Blood Pressure Down.

2. Clock your meals.

To get in the habit of having a balanced diet, “visualize your plate as a clock,” says Amber L. Taylor, MD, who directs The Diabetes Center at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.

Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. A quarter gets lean protein like baked fish, beans, or chicken. The last quarter holds grains, preferably whole, like brown rice.

You’ll still need to count carbohydrates and make sure you're not getting too much sodium.

3. Rethink your coffee drink.

Caffeine can raise your blood sugar and blood pressure. If you have higher blood sugar or blood pressure after drinking coffee, “limit your caffeine intake to 200 milligrams -- about 2 cups of coffee -- a day,” says Torey Jones Armul, RD, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Skip the French press or espresso and choose coffee made with a paper filter. The paper soaks up an oily compound in coffee beans called cafestol, which can hike up cholesterol.

You can also consider switching to decaf. “Some research suggests it can reduce blood sugar,” Armul says.

4. Seek out seeds and grains.

“Look for visible seeds and grains in your food,” Taylor says. “The grainier, the better.”

Whole grains are rich in vitamins and minerals, plus contain fiber, which keeps you full and helps steady blood sugar. Aim for three to five servings of grains each day, and make at least half of those servings whole grains.

Try swapping white rice or pasta for amaranth, barley, bulgur, or quinoa. “Many whole grains now come presoaked or precooked to make preparation quick and easy,” Taylor says.

5. Go bananas.

Bananas are a good source of potassium. So are cantaloupe, broccoli, raw carrots, lentils, potatoes, whole wheat bread, bran flakes, and nuts.

“Potassium naturally reduces the effects of sodium, helping to control blood pressure,” says Lauren Elkins, RD, nutrition director at Marina Del Rey Hospital in Marina Del Rey, CA.

If you have kidney problems, too much potassium can make them worse, so ask your doctor if you need to limit how much you get.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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