This Valentine's Day, Start Taking Care of Your Heart

Dr. Cindy Haines Health Guide
  • With stores festooned with Valentine's Day hearts in February - and springtime with its warm let's-get-out-and-exercise weather just around the corner - now's a great time to think about your heart health. And while you're at it, it's a good time to think about diabetes, for several good reasons.


    For starters, if you have diabetes, you're at much higher risk of having heart disease or a stroke. According to the National Institutes of Health, you're at least twice as likely to develop these diseases if you have diabetes, which can drastically impact your quality of life ... or end it. As a result, avoiding diabetes can help you protect yourself from heart disease.

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    Secondly, the same steps that will help prevent diabetes can also help you sidestep heart disease. (I discuss more about how efficient it is to prevent diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and other chronic diseases in one fell swoop in my upcoming book, The New Prescription, which will be available in late spring.)

    Here's how to protect yourself from diabetes and heart disease in a few easy-to-remember steps:


    Step 1: Keep a healthy weight. Being overweight is a serious risk factor for diabetes - in other words, it boosts your odds of developing the disease. If you're carrying around too much weight, you don't even have to get skinny before you reduce your risk. Just losing about 5 to 7 percent of your weight can delay or prevent diabetes. If you weigh 170 pounds, 7 percent is just 12 pounds.

    Step 2: Watch what you eat. A diet that discourages diabetes is rich in whole grains, vegetables, and lean sources of protein. On the other hand, it holds sugary snack foods and drinks, meat high in saturated fat, and processed white bread and other processed grain foods to a minimum.


    Eating more salads with your meals might be a helpful step. In a 2010 study published in the journal BMJ, British researchers compiled the results of six earlier studies in order to measure how fruits and vegetables in one's diet affects the risk of type 2 diabetes. Four of the studies looked specifically at green leafy vegetables. They found that having a little over one serving of leafy greens daily (compared to a measly 0.2 servings) was associated with a 14-percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes.


    Want a tart salad that's a decent source of fiber and has enough red berries that it looks like a Valentine? Try this spinach berry salad.


    And Step 3: Move around more. Be sure to get at least 30 minutes of exercise at least five days a week. Find a type of physical activity and stick with it - or better yet, find several that you like and rotate between them so you don't get bored and burned-out. Exercise helps your body use its blood sugar and it helps you keep your weight in check. And it can be a valuable method for protecting yourself from diabetes.


    There you have it: With just three steps you can prevent at least two serious chronic diseases. What better Valentine treat could you give yourself this February?


Published On: February 14, 2011