World Heart Day 2020: Best Foods To Prevent The Risk Of Heart Diseases In Diabetics

Shivangi Karn
·6-min read

Every year on 29 September, the World Heart Day is celebrated across the globe to raise awareness on this important health issue which is responsible for around 17.9 million deaths per year, that equals 31 per cent of global deaths. On the occasion of World Heart Day, we'll discuss the foods that help manage glucose levels in the body and prevent long-term complications like heart diseases.

Heart diseases and diabetes are interlinked. People diagnosed with diabetes are twice as likely to die due to heart diseases or stroke.compared to those who are not diabetics. High glucose levels in the body cause buildup of cholesterol in the arteries, leading to related problems like heart attack and hypertension. Therefore, it is essential to control blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol in the body as this can cut down the risk of heart disease and stroke. [1]

People diagnosed with diabetes and a heart issue need to keep a watch on foods they eat. A well-balanced diet (especially Mediterranean Diet) can reduce the risk of heart diseases by around 30 per cent in people with diabetes. Take a look at healthy foods for diabetics and heart patients.

1. Walnuts

A study has shown that walnuts affect insulin levels in people with diabetes and reduce the risk of heart-related diseases and metabolic syndrome. Walnuts are packed with antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids. It is advised to consume around 30 g of walnuts per day. [2]

2. Lean meat

Restricting meat products by plant-based diets can cause protein deficiency as it is needed by the body for several functions. To substitute for processed meats which are high in carbs and fats, it is suggested to include lean meat or skinless meat in diet plans. Also, studies say that lean meat does not contribute to heart diseases. [3]

3. Avocado

People with type 2 diabetes prefer avocado as the best replacement for foods rich in fats. It helps control glycemic and bad cholesterol levels in the body and promote a healthy heart. Avocados are also rich in antioxidants and dietary fibre. [4]

4. Soybean

Soybean helps control serum lipid in diabetics. Also, the isoflavones in soy reduce the risk of diabetes and heart diseases by lowering cholesterol and improving insulin resistance. This reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases in people with diabetes. [5]

5. Flaxseeds

A study had concluded that flaxseeds can help reduce some of the diabetes-associated risk factors like heart diseases. Flaxseeds help lower insulin resistance in people who are pre-diabetics and also lowers glucose levels in diabetics. [6]

6. Healthy oils

Edible oils like canola and olive oil are rich monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which are considered good for the health of the heart compared to saturated or trans fat. The low cholesterol count in the oils makes them the best foods for the heart.

7. Omega-3 fatty acids

A meta-analysis has shown that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids help decrease cardiovascular risks by around 10 per cent in people with diabetes. The nutrient produces favourable hypolipidemic effects and reduces inflammatory cytokines which show a positive effect on glucose levels. [7]

8. Herbs

Diabetic cardiomyopathy (problems in heart muscles due to diabetes) is a major cause of death linked to high glucose levels. Some herbs and spices such as turmeric, ginkgo biloba and ginseng may help reduce glucose-induced inflammation which may result in cardiac dysfunction. These herbs are packed with antioxidants and flavonoids. [8]

9. Vegetable soups

Vegetable soups are effective on blood fluidity, lipid profile and fasting blood sugar levels. These factors may help improve glucose levels, which in turn, may improve the heart health. [9]

10. Leafy vegetables

Vegetables low in glycemic index are considered good for people with diabetes or pre-diabetes. Such vegetables include green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and celery. They protect the arteries from damage due to high glucose levels and promote good health due to antioxidants and many macronutrients present in them.

11. Whole grains

Whole grains are rich in protein, minerals, antioxidants and dietary fibre. Its consumption is highly linked to a reduced risk of diabetes and heart diseases. Whole grains have three physiological effects; glucose-lowering, laxative and blood lipid. These factors prevent the risk of diabetes as well as heart diseases due to diabetes. [10]

12. Legumes

Legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, mung bean and split green peas are high in omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids along with calcium, folate, fibre, vitamin B, magnesium and zinc. Many studies link the consumption of legumes with decreased incidences of diabetes, heart diseases and hypertension. [11]

13. Oatmeal

Oats are beneficial for diabetics. It shows a reduction in the concentration of fasting blood glucose and total cholesterol, whose high amount causes diabetes and heart diseases. An active compound called beta-glucan in oats helps improve sensitivity and reduce the risk of coronary heart diseases. [12]

14. Berries

Berries such as raspberries, cranberries, blueberries and strawberries are low in carbohydrates, high in antioxidants and low in calories. Studies have shown that these berries (either fresh, juice or freeze-dried) can improve lipid profile, glucose metabolism and oxidation of bad cholesterol. This decreases oxidative stress and inflammatory genes and controls or prevents diabetes and heart diseases. [13]

15. Low-fat dairy

Low-fat dairy products such as skimmed milk, low-calorie yoghurt and low-fat cottage cheese are linked to lower incidences of type 2 diabetes. This, in turn, may positively affect heart health and keep it healthy. [14]

Other Guidelines To Manage Diabetes And Heart Diseases

  • Include one or more fruits (rich in vitamin C) and green veggies in meals daily.

  • Opt for whole grains bread and flours instead of white ones.

  • Consume dry fruits such as nuts and seeds as an evening snack and avoid junk foods.

  • Avoid processed meat products and go for lean meat and fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Avoid their overconsumption.

  • Replace sugary products with sweet fruits or dates.

  • Don't cut down on milk protein and instead, go for skimmed milk and low-calorie dairy products.

  • Avoid alcohol consumption and smoking tobacco.

Common FAQs

1. Is wheat good for the heart?

Wheat comes under whole-grain food sources which makes it best for heart health. It is rich in dietary fibre that helps manage glucose and cholesterol levels and prevent the risk of heart diseases.

2. Which fruit is best for the heart?

Fruits packed with vitamin C and other antioxidants are considered the best for the heart. These fruits include strawberries, blueberries, avocado, guava, kiwi, grapes, grapefruit and apricots.

3. What are the symptoms of diabetic heart disease?

Symptoms of heart diseases in a diabetic include cold sweat, fatigue, heartburn, tiredness after a small activity and pain in neck and arms.

4. How does type 2 diabetes affect your heart?

Diabetes can lead to insulin resistance in which the body is unable to utilise glucose in energy forms. When the energy production is restricted due to high glucose level, the fats start getting deposited in artery walls which leads to weakening of the walls and obstruction in blood flow, causing heart diseases like stroke and heart failure.

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