When you’re at risk for Type 2 diabetes or are pre-diabetic, your risk of heart disease goes up, too. High blood glucose levels can damage the blood vessels and nerves that control your heart. Weight gain and lack of activity can lead to high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, which cause your heart to work harder.
But there’s good news! The lifestyle changes that lower your risk for diabetes can also keep your heart healthy.
In addition to staying active, one of the most important things you can do for your health is limit unhealthy fats. Unhealthy fats include saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol. These cause inflammation and narrow your arteries, increasing your risk of a heart attack or stroke. You’ll find these in foods like bacon, hot dogs, french fries, butter, whole milk and foods made with hydrogenated oil or shortening. Check food nutrition labels while you’re food shopping to find out how much of these fats are in your cart, and choose leaner meats, low-fat milk and healthier substitutes.
Seek out foods with healthy fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and omega 3 fatty acids that are good for your heart and help reduce cholesterol levels. You’ll find them in avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds and many kinds of seafood. But keep in mind that healthy-fat foods can still be high in calories.
Unhealthy fats can also sneak into your food depending on how you prepare it. Keep an eye on the amount of butter or oil you use in your cooking. Simple substitutions, like switching to an olive oil spray instead of butter, grilling vegetables instead of frying them, or swapping extra salt for herbs and spices, can go a long way toward preventing heart disease. Use the tips in our worksheet for cooking without unhealthy fats and write down other ideas to try. You can add this sheet to your diabetes prevention action plan.
You don’t have to avoid unhealthy fats forever. Just stick to this tried-and-true rule: everything in moderation. Remember why you’re making lifestyle changes, and plan healthy meals using what you’ve already learned on your diabetes prevention journey.
If you become concerned about the health of your heart, seek the advice of a primary care physician or cardiologist, who can test your cholesterol and blood pressure levels and work with you to better manage them. You can use the OhioHealth Find-A-Doctor tool to find an OhioHealth physician near you.