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Talking to your clients about diabetes and heart health

Eleven million people live with diabetes or prediabetes in Canada1, and if left unmanaged, the condition can lead to serious complications, including heart disease. In fact, people with diabetes are three times more likely to die from heart disease2. Often people with diabetes have other risk factors for heart disease, such as obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high triglyceride levels; the impact of these risk factors is as follows:

  • Obesity: Extra weight, especially around the abdomen, forces bodies to work harder to manage blood pressure, blood glucose and blood lipids, which reduces overall well-being and energy levels.
  • High blood pressure: Most people with diabetes will develop high blood pressure, and the heart needs to work harder to pump blood through the body, which causes the heart to become less efficient.
  • Abnormal blood cholesterol levels: A healthy heart prefers high levels of HDL-cholesterol, and low levels of LDL-cholesterol. HDL-cholesterol helps remove other forms of cholesterol from the body, while low LDL-cholesterol levels help avoid plaque build-up in the arteries. In most people with diabetes, their HDL- and LDL-cholesterol levels are out of balance, and this can increase blood pressure and the risk of heart disease.
  • High triglyceride levels: People with diabetes often have high levels of triglycerides which may further raise the risk for heart disease.

The role of diet in the management of diabetes

Whether your client has been diagnosed with diabetes, or is simply at-risk, there are ways you can help.

While proper diabetes management includes a holistic approach from exercise, to monitoring cholesterol and blood glucose levels, to limiting alcohol intake, the dietary choices one makes can be highly effective in preventing and treating type 2 diabetes. For instance, there is mounting evidence that supports the benefits of a whole plant-based diet, including legumes, whole grains, vegetables and nuts, with limited or no intake of refined foods and animal products, for people at-risk or those living with type 2 diabetes.3 This notion is also substantiated in the most recent Canadian Dietary Guidelines, which emphasize a shift towards plant-based foods.

Helping your clients adopt a plant-based diet does not have to be daunting and there are tools that can help. As a starting point, visit the One-Week Plant-Based Meal Plan as an easy way to help introduce your clients to plant-based eating.

With the right facts and support, managing diabetes and living a heart healthy lifestyle is possible.

References

  1. Diabetes Canada. What is Diabetes? 2020. https://www.diabetes.ca/about-diabetes/what-is-diabetes Sourced Sept 30, 2020.
  2. Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. Diabetes. 2020. https://www.heartandstroke.ca/heart/risk-and-prevention/condition-risk-factors/diabetes Sourced Sept 20, 2020.
  3. McMacken M et al. A plant-based diet for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. The Journal of Geriatric Cardiology. 2017; 14(5): 342–354. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5466941/ Sourced Sept 3, 2020.