If you have diabetes, whether it be type 1 or type 2, you need to be aware that this increases your risk of heart disease. Now rather than worry about this, see it as an added incentive to live as healthily as you can to reduce your risk. Here are a few tips to help:
If you are overweight lose weight
You don’t need to get to your recommended healthy weight to benefit. Losing just five per cent of your body weight leads to significant improvements in health. Measuring your waist circumference is actually a better indictor of risk to your health as visceral fat – the fat around your internal organs – is the most dangerous. Aim to get your waist circumference below 80cm if you're female and below 94cm if you're male. Set doable realistic targets, seek professional help if you need it and most importantly make permanent changes rather than following the latest fad diet. You can get further help from me by joining my online lifestyle change program Get Lean. Click here to find out more.
Control your blood glucose levels
Monitoring is essential and you’ll get to know what affects you most. A low GI diet has been shown to be very effective and essentially this focuses on having slow release carbs from wholefoods while cutting down on highly refined starchy foods and those with too much added sugar. I’m also a big fan of the Mediterranean Diet. It is not only low GI, but full of heart healthy components too. Vegan diets have also shown great potential for reducing the risk for heart disease and managing diabetes. Find an approach that appeals and that you think will work for you.
Measure your blood cholesterol profile
Past the age of 45, it’s recommended that everyone have their blood cholesterol and lipids checked every five years. But if you have diabetes it’s a good idea to be tested every two years, and if over the age of 60 or have other other heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure or a previously measured cholesterol level of more than 7.5mmol/L, then you should be tested every year.
It’s important to look at the whole profile and not just the total cholesterol value. The targets set for GPs in Australia are:
Total cholesterol <4.0 mmol/L
HDL-cholesterol ≥1.0 mmol/L
LDL-cholesterol <2.0 mmol/L
Non-HDL-cholesterol <2.5 mmol/L
Triglycerides <2.0 mmol/L.
If you do have high total and LDL-cholesterol levels, changing your diet is a key first step towards improving this profile. Your doctor may additionally prescribe you lipid-lowering medication, but regardless your diet can have an additive effect.
I’m all for using natural approaches where possible and as an adjunct to medical treatments. That’s why I like the BetaHeart product range; it’s an all-natural, fibre supplement drink that is clinically proven to reduce total and LDL-cholesterol. It’s ideal for those with diabetes as it’s low GI, has no added sugar and being a soluble fibre it can even help with blood sugar control. The specific fibre it contains is called beta-glucan – the same fibre found in
oats but by taking the supplement you ensure you reach the 3g necessary to gain the benefit to blood cholesterol.
It’s also super easy to get into your diet in the right amount as all you need to do is drink a sachet every day mixed with water, milk or in your smoothie.
Know your blood pressure
High blood pressure puts you at high risk of a stroke or heart attack. You are at extremely high risk if your systolic blood pressure (the first figure) is ≥ 180 mm Hg or your diastolic blood pressure (the second figure) is ≥ 110 mm Hg. The target for those with diabetes is ≤ 130/80 mm Hg. If you do have high blood pressure again your diet and lifestyle is key to making a reduction. Reduce your salt intake to reduce sodium and eat plenty of vegies to boost potassium as the balance of these two minerals is key to blood pressure control. Losing weight, getting regular exercise and managing stress levels are also of huge benefit.
Get regular exercise
This helps with your weight, blood glucose control, blood pressure and cholesterol – it’s a non-negotiable for a healthy body for everyone. Choose an activity you think you’ll enjoy and if you can recruit a partner or a friend to exercise with you, you’ll be more likely to keep it up. Walking is one of the easiest ways to get started and investing in an activity tracker or simply using one of the many free Apps on your smartphone to track steps is a great motivator. You can set yourself a goal number of steps and work towards that target. Having several short walks spread over the day is just as good as one longer walk. In fact, walking after your meals is a terrific means of controlling blood glucose.
Article by Dr Joanna McMillan, PhD