How to Prevent & Manage Heart Disease and Diabetes

As we've highlighted before, anyone of any age, health condition and gender can contract the coronavirus. That said, there seem to be some risk factors that make for more severe outcomes from COVID-19. While age is one of the primary risk factors, those with underlying health conditions are also at risk.

Examples include:

  • Those with compromised immune systems from an autoimmune condition or a medical condition treatment, such as chemotherapy.
  • Those with underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, lung disease or respiratory diseases like asthma and cancer.

How to Prevent & Manage Heart Disease and Diabetes

We wanted to use this post to discuss heart disease and diabetes. We have another post on How to Support Your Immune System Against COVID-19, which you can read here.

Like many other illnesses, heart disease is related to elevated inflammation levels. Things like environmental pollutants, alcohol, smoking, unhealthy fats, refined sugar and a lack of sleep can all impact inflammation.

While there is a genetic component, the good news is that heart disease is preventable and manageable through a healthy diet and lifestyle. Results from the Nurses’ Health Studies (NHSs) found that living a healthy lifestyle by exercising, eating a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables and whole grains and not smoking can lower your risk of heart disease — even if you are genetically predisposed to the disease!

While cancer is a complex topic, these recommendations are also helpful for cancer prevention and overall health.

Foods That Help Reduce Inflammation and Heart Disease Risk

1. Fiber and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables of all kinds

  • Aim to have non-starchy vegetables like leafy greens, zucchini or cruciferous veggies (i.e. broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.) at every meal.
  • While everyone is different, if you have diabetes it may be helpful to try to keep fruit to no more than 1-2 servings a day and starchy vegetables (sweet potatoes, potatoes, corn, beets, etc.) to no more than a serving at a time if you choose to eat them. Pair them with healthy fats and/or a protein for better blood sugar control.

2. Healthy fats

  • This includes unsalted nuts, seeds, fish (especially salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring), avocados, coconut and olives and their oils (coconut oil, avocado oil and extra virgin olive oil).

3. Lean proteins

  • Protein should be eaten at every meal, especially if you have any blood sugar issues.
  • Choose seafood, pasture-raised eggs and grass-fed/pasture-raised meats.
  • Consume plant-based proteins like chickpeas, lentils, beans and organic soy products (edamame, tempeh, tofu).

4. Herbs and spices

  • Turmeric (curcumin) and raw garlic are especially anti-inflammatory. Other herbs like basil, chili peppers, curry powder, ginger, rosemary and thyme. Ceylon cinnamon can lower blood sugar levels and those with diabetes or metabolic syndrome may benefit from incorporating it daily. Traditional teas like green tea, Oolong or white tea are also full of antioxidants.

Please note that our Weekly Meal Plans follow these precise guidelines and are gluten, dairy and refined sugar free, not to mention rich in lean proteins and healthy fats.  We also have Custom Meal Plans available if you need meal plans more tailored to your unique health conditions and goals.

Foods That Promote Inflammation and Heart Disease

Avoid or reduce the following foods:

  • Refined carbohydrates like bread, pasta, flour products, cookies and pastries
  • Processed meat & dairy
  • Sugars of all kinds (except whole fruit in moderation)
  • Packaged and processed foods - eat foods with few ingredients and ingredients you recognize
  • Trans & hydrogenated fats
  • Inflammatory oils like corn, safflower, canola and soybean oils - a good rule of thumb is to avoid liquid oils in clear plastic bottles

If you are looking for clear dietary guidelines, the Mediterranean diet is considered one of the most effective anti-inflammatory and therapeutic diets for heart disease. It includes fish, vegetables, beans, fruits, olive oil, moderate levels of poultry, dairy and eggs and is low in sugar, processed foods, preservatives and vegetable oils. 

Click here to learn more about our Weekly Meal Planning program, which uses anti-inflammatory ingredients, and does not include any gluten, dairy or refined sugar.

Lifestyle Considerations

1. Get regular exercise and physical activity

Exercise helps restore and maintain cardiovascular health by improving blood flow, bringing more oxygen to your cells, managing hormones and blood sugar levels, and helping you relax. It also lowers insulin levels and is important for normal blood sugar control. Try a variety of different types of exercise like HIIT workouts, Crossfit, Yoga, Tai Chi or simply walking more. The key is to find a routine you enjoy and can maintain and move more throughout the day. If your job is very active, even better! Just make sure you are also taking time to rest.

2. Reduce stress & aim for at least 7 hours of quality sleep every day

Chronic stress interferes with hormone control and inflammatory responses. It can also suppress the immune system, slow the metabolism (increasing your risk of weight gain), impact digestion, detoxification and cell regeneration. Focus on stress management techniques like exercising, meditation, deep breathing, getting outside in nature, and unwinding. We have tons of stress information here.

3. Quit smoking, vaping and avoid excess alcohol and caffeine

The effects of smoking and excess alcohol on your health are well recognized and understood. Consult with your doctor about the resources that are available to help you quit. While everyone is a little different, caffeine raises your stress hormones and causes a short but dramatic increase in blood pressure. For the average person, this likely isn't an issue, but is if you have heart disease, high blood pressure or issues with blood sugar control, it's best to limit your caffeine to about one cup a day in the morning.

4. Address digestive symptoms and food sensitivities

Dysbiosis, which is an overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria in your gut, and undiagnosed food sensitivities, contribute to the release of inflammatory toxins, allergens and proteins in your body. Not only is this important for heart disease (including high blood pressure), but is also something that can make asthma much worse and is a strain on your immune system. If you suspect you have digestive issues or are interested in food sensitivity testing, feel free to book a complimentary 15 minute info session to learn how you can identify and address them from home.

In summary, depending on where you are in your health journey, it may seem overwhelming to implement some, if not all of these changes. We can guarantee that you don't have to go on a restrictive diet, cleanse or cut calories in order to improve your health. We always put a plan together for our clients that is gradual, sustainable, and addresses their unique needs and lifestyle. It is never too late to make a change!

Please note this article is not meant to replace medical advice. Please speak to your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.

Government of Canada (COVID-19): Prevention and Risks

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