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New Guidelines on Heart Disease Prevention and Diabetes – Nutrition

I mentioned in an earlier post that the American Diabetes Association and American Heart Association have just released an update on the prevention of heart disease in adults with type 2 diabetes. Since heart disease is so incredibly important and so connected to diabetes, I want you to have the latest. And, there are some updated recommendations for this “lifestyle” part of diabetes management.

Diet is one of the most difficult challenges in our society today, where we are constantly surrounded by less-than-healthy food choices. But, since diet is so closely related to heart disease independently, you could correctly guess that diet becomes doubly important where diabetes is part of the picture too. The main messages concerning diabetes nutrition are to:

  • Work with a registered dietitian nutritionist (medical nutrition therapy) to find an individualized mix of calories from carbohydrate, protein and fat, and how these calories should be distributed throughout the day
  • Monitor carbohydrate consumption for blood glucose control
  • Reduce calories for overweight or obese patients
  • Reduce sugar and limit saturated fat – get carbohydrates from fruit, legumes (beans), whole grains and low fat dairy products
  • Manage sodium intake

The report finds strong evidence in recent studies to support a Mediterranean – style eating plan for reducing heart disease risks. One study found a 30% lower risk of heart related events in comparison to a “control” group, even among participants with diabetes. A Mediterranean diet emphasizes fruits and vegetables, whole grain, and healthy fats like olive oil, nuts and seeds. The main “take home” messages on nutrition, however, are that a variety of eating patterns can be effective, but find your best pattern with professional help.

In the broad picture, diet figures into heart disease in so many ways – weight management, blood pressure, and LDL “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides. And diet, of course, is a pillar of diabetes management too. Newer guidelines tweak the details, but for type 2 diabetes the preeminent importance of healthy eating remains unchanged.

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