Heart health is very important for people with diabetes, since there is a higher risk of heart disease than for people who don’t have diabetes. Your regular habits – including diet, exercise and stress management – can have a big impact on your risk of heart disease. Read on to learn about your ‘to do list’ for diabetes and a healthy heart.
To do: every day
Every day, there are things you can do to maintain your heart health.
- Weigh in! Paying attention to your weight is very important for people with diabetes. If you are overweight or obese, losing 5% to 10% of your body weight can improve your diabetes control and your heart health.
- Get some exercise. (If you work nights, do this in the evening before you start work.) Aim to exercise for a minimum of 2-½ hours every week, spread over at least 3 days of the week.
- Choose a heart-healthy breakfast. A heart-healthy meal plan is one that emphasizes vegetables, fruits and whole grains, and limits high-fat foods (such as red meat, cheese and baked goods) and high-sodium foods (such as canned or processed foods). Check out these heart-healthy menu options:
- ½ cup cooked oatmeal, sprinkled with 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts and 1 teaspoon cinnamon; 1 banana; and 1 cup low-fat milk
- Omelette (2 eggs) filled with low-fat cheese and veggies; and 1 English muffin
- Healthy shake, blended with 1 cup fresh or frozen berries, ½ cup plain yogurt and 1 cup low-fat milk
- Use a food diary to keep track of what you eat, especially if weight loss is a goal. Food diaries are not only a great way to keep track of calories, they can also help you detect blood sugar patterns. For example, if your blood sugar readings are consistently high after a meal, you can talk with your diabetes healthcare team to see if any food adjustments can be made to help lower them.
- Choose a heart-healthy lunch. Check out these heart-healthy menu options:
- Hummus and veggie sandwich (2 slices whole-grain bread, 3 tablespoons hummus, ¼ cup sliced cucumber, ¼ cup shredded carrot); 1 cup mixed salad greens with 2 tablespoons low-fat dressing; and 1 apple
- Avocado tomato feta salad (1 medium-sized tomato, and ¼ cup each of avocado, cucumbers, shallots and crumbled light feta cheese), topped with 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of fresh or dried oregano; and 1 banana
- 1 cup vegetarian chili; whole wheat roll; carrot and celery sticks; and ½ cup strawberries
- Take a few minutes to de-stress from your day. Some quick and effective ways to reduce your stress levels include listening to music, reading a book and practicing yoga or meditation.
- If you were unable to exercise in the morning, get some physical activity in before supper.
- Choose a heart-healthy supper. Check out these heart-healthy menu options:
- 3 ounces grilled salmon; ½ cup brown rice; 1 cup asparagus spears; and 1 apple
- 3 ounces baked chicken breast; 1 small baked potato with 1 teaspoon butter; 1 cup green beans; and 1 cup raspberries
- ½ cup cooked whole grain pasta, topped with 1/3 cup tomato sauce and 3 ounces grilled shrimp; onions, mushrooms and zucchini sautéed in 1 tablespoon olive oil; and 1 banana
- Consider a post-supper walk around your neighbourhood.
To do: every few months
Every few months (or more frequently, as advised by your diabetes healthcare team), your ‘to do list’ includes:
To do: once a year
- Cholesterol test (your healthcare team will take a blood sample and send it to a laboratory for analysis)
Keep track of your health test schedule by using this handy monitoring record.
- Consider making a list of questions to ask your diabetes healthcare team regarding your individual plan for reducing your risk of heart disease. Some topics you might want to address include:
- Medications that are available to help protect your heart
- Smoking cessation programs, either online or in person
- Diet and nutrition information
- Weight loss advice
- Exercise recommendations
While having diabetes puts you at higher risk of heart disease, there are many things you can do to protect your heart health. Keeping track of your ongoing ‘to do list’ will help ensure that you continue to enjoy a healthy heart.