If you have diabetes you are also at an increased risk of developing disease in your blood vessels and in the heart, commonly referred to as cardiovascular disease. Many patients that have diabetes also suffer from cardiovascular disease. So how should we eat if we are affected by both of these diseases? A diet for each disease, or a diet for both?
When a person’s blood sugar levels are high, they have an increased risk of developing an atheroma (a fatty material that narrows the blood vessels). This can lead to having a heart attack or a stroke. Diabetes also increases the damage caused by smoking, developing high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol.
So what to do? The good news is that simple changes to your lifestyle, including to your diet, can help you manage your diabetes as well as reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
The basics of healthy eating are similar whether you have conditions like diabetes and heart disease or not. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to healthy eating. However, it is important to have a regular meal pattern and make healthy food choices, such as regularly consuming fruit and vegetables (at least five portions every day), whole grains, oily fish, lean protein foods such as non-processed meat, poultry and nuts, as well as lower fat milk and dairy products. Keep the fatty and sugary treats to small amounts and focus on the type of fats we use, as well as the amount of salt we consume.
Different fat types have different effects on the body. Diets high in saturated fat are linked to higher levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) in the blood. Having too much LDL increases the build-up of fatty deposits in your blood vessels, increasing your risk of heart disease. Eating unsaturated fats instead of saturated fat helps to maintain healthy cholesterol levels in the blood.
An easy switch would be to go from saturated to unsaturated fat by:
- Go from butter to unsaturated vegetable oils and spreads such as sunflower, olive, rapeseed or corn.
- Trim visible fat from meat and remove the skin from chicken.
- Choose lower-fat milk and dairy products and swap biscuits, cakes and chocolate for healthier snacks such as fruit.
So… just get started with changing your diet and reduce your risk of heart disease!
by Prof. Ismail Gögenur
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