Managing Diabetes Magazine - diabetes
Take Action on Heart Health
A healthy diet is key
If you are one of the nearly two million Canadians living with diabetes, you are well aware of how this condition could affect your health. Over time, uncontrolled blood sugar levels can damage the body's various organs, blood vessels and nerves. Diabetes also puts you at a higher risk of developing heart disease and stroke. However, you can take action to help keep your body and your heart in good health.
What is diabetes?
Having diabetes means that your body is not able to balance blood glucose levels. Depending on the type of diabetes, the body is unable to make insulin, use insulin, or both. If your pancreas stops producing some insulin, this is called insulin deficiency. If it cannot use insulin as well as it should, it is called insulin resistance.
Top tips for staying healthy with diabetes
If you don’t know where to start, don’t fret. Getting the right support is an important part of managing diabetes, and help is available. Your diabetes team includes your family doctor and other professionals including your pharmacist, nurse, and dietitian. This team can explain how to assess and control your condition.
The good news is that healthy lifestyle choices and careful monitoring can reduce your chances of developing a heart attack or stroke. To successfully manage diabetes, you’ll need to do both.
Adjust your lifestyle
Keep tabs on your health
You can actively prevent diabetes complications by:
- taking medications to protect your heart
- quitting smoking
- lowering your stress levels
- exercising regularly and eating a heart-healthy diet
Talk to your team about how to assess and control your diabetes to keep:
- blood sugar levels within target range
- A1C at 7.0 percent or less
- blood pressure at 130/80 mmHg or less
- and LDL ("lousy") cholesterol at 2.0 mmol/L or less.
Diet is key
One of the most well-known heart healthy diets is called the Mediterranean Diet. Research shows that compared to a low-fat diet, it can help lower the rate of heart attack, stroke, and even death from heart-related causes.
The Mediterranean Diet focuses on eating plant-based foods and gives you fibre, phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, lean protein and mono-unsaturated fat. It is also lower in saturated fat, sodium and added sugar. Basically, it gives you more of the good stuff your body needs. Even better, it promotes eating a variety of super-tasty and colourful foods that are sure to keep your taste buds tantalized.
Top tips from the Mediterranean Diet
- Eat fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, cereals and whole grains every day.
- Use olive oil as your main source of added fat in your cooking.
- Eat fish and poultry a few times a week.
- Limit how often you eat sweets, desserts and dairy products, as well as red and processed meats.
- Drink moderate amounts of wine with meals. However, if you do not drink alcohol, it is not recommended that you start. Speak with your doctor to find out if alcohol is safe for you.
Building healthier habits
After a diabetes diagnosis, you may feel pressured to make sweeping changes to your diet. However, food choices that you can stick with confidently are the best.
If you are feeling overwhelmed and questioning whether you can maintain all those big changes, relax. You can begin benefitting from the Mediterranean Diet with just a few changes. Once you feel able to stick with those new habits longer-term, slowly build on them. Remember, your current eating habits did not develop overnight. It is not realistic to expect them to change overnight either.
Snack and meal inspiration
- Start your day on the right foot. Make a bowl of oatmeal porridge cooked with unsweetened soy milk, berries and crushed walnuts.
- Not a fan of oatmeal? No problem! Instead, opt for a mixed-vegetable omelette with a side of whole grain toast and sliced avocado for breakfast.
- If you feel tuckered out by mid-morning, grab some plain Greek yogurt with a handful of blueberries to re-energize you before lunch.
Make your lunch count! Enjoy a mixed green salad with olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette, roasted pumpkin seeds and a salmon salad sandwich for an extra heart-healthy kick.
- Let’s not forget the mighty bean. Prepare a mixed bean salad with an array of your favourite vegetables as a fibre-packed, meatless lunch option.
- Curb that hunger. Snack on a handful of almonds before dinner to prevent your hunger from taking charge.
- Feast your eyes (and belly!). Enjoy a marinated chicken breast along with a side of roasted sweet potato, plenty of bell peppers and zucchini to fill the rest of your plate.
- Craving something sweet? Apple slices with all-natural peanut butter make a refreshing nighttime snack when you feel hungry. Read labels carefully to avoid added sugar and sodium in some peanut butters.
Make the most of your team
Remember, you have a network of care professionals who can help you in specific areas of diabetes management. If you haven’t seen your family doctor in some time for a diabetes check-up, making an appointment is a good place to start. You will likely want to be seen every three - six months to check your Hb A1C.
A registered dietitian specializes in food and nutrition. This professional can help you make sense of nutrition information and advise you about positive diet changes. Ask your doctor for a referral to a local dietitian with a specialty in diabetes care. Your community pharmacist is another key member of your health care team, who can explain how the right medications can help manage your diabetes and protect your heart.
Although a diabetes diagnosis can feel overwhelming, you can take action to improve your health. Talk to your health care team about other suggestions on ways to protect your heart.
What does the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada recommend? Many risk factors for heart disease and stroke are in our power to control, and these lifestyle changes can help.
- Eat well. Focus on vegetables and fruit, whole grain foods, and variety in your protein choices. Limit ultra-processed foods, sugar, salt and fats.
- Get moving and stay active.
- Maintain a healthy weight. As well, have a healthy waist size, as where you carry your weight is also important.
- Stop smoking. Avoid second-hand smoke as well.
- Manage your stress. Understand what makes you feel stressed, and learn more effective ways to respond to it.
Check out the Foundation’s Get Healthy webpage
to learn more. Your diabetes team can also help you with all of these topics.
While effort is made to reflect accepted medical knowledge and practice, articles in Family Health Online should not be relied upon for the treatment or management of any specified medical problem or concern and Family Health accepts no liability for reliance on the articles. For proper diagnosis and care, you should always consult your family physician promptly. © Copyright 2018, Family Health Magazine, a special publication of the Edmonton Journal, a division of Postmedia Network Inc., 10006 - 101 Street, Edmonton, AB T5J 0S1 [DI_MDcd18]