According to the American Heart Association, adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or a stroke than adults without diabetes. If you have the blood-sugar condition, these statistics may seem overwhelming. Not only do you have to think about dealing with diabetes, but you may also have to consider cardiovascular disease.
On the other hand, paying attention to lifestyle factors can make a big dent in those numbers and improve your odds greatly. Don’t think of the challenge as a double whammy, and give up before you ever get started. Have a more positive perspective:
Think of the changes you make as improving two conditions for the effort of one.
When you take control of certain lifestyle factors that led to your diabetes, you’ll also improve your cardiovascular health: a double bonus.
Start with nutrition. Make simple, small changes. Ease into your efforts. Focus on increasing or decreasing one food item at a time. After a week or a month (or however long you need to get used to the change), increase or decrease another food.
Increase your intake of these foods to decrease both diabetes and heart disease:
- Fiber-rich whole grains, such as oatmeal, brown rice, and whole wheat
- Fruits and vegetables, especially deeply colored varieties, such as spinach, carrots, and berries
- Fish, especially those high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon or lake trout
- Chicken or turkey, without the skin
- Lean beef — round, sirloin, chuck, and loin
- Vegetable oils and margarines (soft varieties)
- Nonfat or low-fat dairy
- Unsalted nuts, seeds, and legumes
Decrease your intake of these foods to decrease both diabetes and heart disease:
- Sweets and added sugars, including table sugars, corn syrups, fruit juice, honey, soft drinks, candy, cake, and jellies
- Fatty meats
- Sodium, which is often high in processed and prepackaged foods
- Saturated fats, often found in butter, whole milk, cheese, fatty meats, and certain oils
- Partially hydrogenated or trans fats, found in hard margarine, shortening, cakes, cookies, pastries, and French fries
See your doctor regularly, so you know your numbers and can track your progress. And if you haven’t already, talk with a dietitian or diabetes professional. Southwest Health has knowledgeable and helpful certified diabetes educators and dietitians (who also lead a monthly diabetes support group with lively discussions and presentations). Together, they can help you turn the double whammy into a double bonus.