By: Mimi Fetzer RD, LD, with The Idaho Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Stroke Prevention Program
February is a time for love, relationships, and matters of the heart. That includes the relationship we have with our heart health. The heart pumps blood to all parts of the body. Blood carries oxygen, nutrition, hormones, and removes waste. The best way to strengthen the relationship with our heart is to adopt a healthy lifestyle.
Tips for a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle:
Reduce sodium and saturated fat intake. Instead, enjoy nutritious foods.
The heart needs a combination of nutrients to function at its best. Consuming a variety of different fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, lean protein, and low-fat dairy is the best way to get these nutrients. Too much of certain nutrients, such as sodium and saturated fat, can place stress on the heart.
Examples of high sodium and saturated fatty foods include:
- Pizza such as pepperoni with full fat cheese.
- Frozen meals.
- Processed meats such as bacon, sausage, lunch meats and hot dogs.
- Snacks such as chips, jerky and shelf-stable cakes.
Quit smoking and vaping tobacco products.
Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease. It can damage the blood cells that transport essential nutrients and compromise the function and structure of the cardiovascular system.1 Medical studies suggest cigarette and e-cigarette smoking result in abnormalities of blood flow to the heart.
For those who are ready to quit, there are resources on the Project Filter Website or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW. Project Filter has expert quit coaches and free patches, gum or lozenges to support people on their quit journey.
Having pre-diabetes or diabetes impacts how much glucose is in the bloodstream. Over time, high blood glucose levels can damage blood vessels causing the heart to work harder to pump blood throughout the body.2
To find out if you or a loved one is at risk for prediabetes, take the Prediabetes Risk Quiz. The results can inform conversations with your healthcare provider and encourage appropriate lifestyle changes. Diabetes Prevention Programs are offered throughout the state to decrease your risk for diabetes. This program is led by trained Lifestyle Coaches who guide a group of individuals through a series of interactive sessions. Each session features different techniques to help adopt a healthy lifestyle and prevent or delay diabetes.
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, talk with your healthcare provider about diabetes management and participating in a Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support Program. This program is delivered by trained healthcare professionals who can discuss how nutrition, medication, and physical activity can help manage diabetes and result in a healthy heart.
Engage in consistent physical activity.
Regular physical activity strengthens the heart’s ability to pump blood throughout the body. 3 Physical activity can also help to manage tobacco cravings resulting in smoking cessation and reduce blood glucose levels. Each week adults should exercise for 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) if it is moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) if it is vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.
Examples of moderate-intensity aerobic activity:
- Fast paced walking
- Water aerobics
- Softball or baseball
Examples of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity:
- Hiking uphill
- Shoveling heavy snow
Remember to have a positive relationship with your heart to ensure healthy relationships with loved ones all year long!
1. Smoking and Your Heart. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/smoking-and-your-heart. Accessed January 15, 2020.
2. Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Stroke. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/preventing-problems/heart-disease-stroke Accessed January 15, 2020.
3. Physical Activity and Your Heart. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/physical-activity-and-your-heart Accessed January 15, 2020.
By: Kara Federonick, MPH, Treasure Valley YMCA
With National Diabetes Awareness Month in full swing, I want to touch on the value, importance and process of journeying towards wellness. Every human walking this earth knows just how challenging change can be, but there is question as to whether everyone knows just how valuable change is- and not only change, but also how important the journey and struggle towards change is. Taking a look at examples in the natural world around us, butterflies would not be able to fly if they did not struggle in breaking out of the cocoon after metamorphosis. Diamonds and pearls would not be formed if not for the immense amount of pressure they endure, and gold not refined if it does not pass through the fire.
Anytime we hear words like diabetes and obesity, there is often an immediate response to run in the opposite direction; they are often considered taboo topics. I ask, however, what has running in the opposite direction from an issue ever helped? When we examine the health landscape of our nation, we see obesity affecting not only our adults, but now our children as well. We see diabetes and prediabetes on the rise and affecting an ever increasing portion of our society with 84 million with prediabetes and over 30 million with diabetes. Change is absolutely essential and crucial to turning the health of our nation around, but what might this journey towards change look like? Here are a few steps on the journey towards wellness:
- Know and recognize the value of the life you have. You bring value to those around you and can make an incredible impact on society, but you need to make that choice. You need to know and realize this, and know you are a gift and your life has a purpose. You are needed but if you do not see this, if you do not pursue to change and grow into the best version of yourself, you rob yourself and others of the gift you have to offer. Your health matters, you matter!
- There is a gap between knowing you need to change and wanting to change and an even greater gap between wanting to change and actually being ready to change and starting to implement change in your life. Take a look in the mirror and ask yourself where you are on this journey and what it will take to get you from where you are to the next step in this journey. If you need help processing and identifying where you are, ask for help from a friend, family, or community resource. Asking for help does not mean one is weak, rather it shows how strong someone is for realizing we weren’t meant to journey life alone.
- Once you have identified where you are on the journey towards wellness, get connected with the tools, resources and individuals around you available to help you progress towards the best you. Whether that starts with a friend, health professional, church or community group, or local gym or YMCA, find out where you stand, what you need to change, and get plugged in!
Remember, you are a priceless gift and gem in the making. But first comes the struggle; the struggle is good and has a purpose. Let’s journey together towards wellness and change!
Resources for Diabetes and Prediabetes