Be heart smart

The month of September is national Heart Awareness Month. Did you know that, on average, 195 people die per day in South Africa due to cardiovascular disease? That's 13 taxi loads of people!

If you suffer from diabetes it is especially important to get heart smart, as you have a greater risk to develop heart disease. According to the National Institute of Health, diabetics also tend to develop heart disease or have strokes at an earlier age than other people.

So what can you do to reduce your risk of heart disease or stroke?

Here are some tips from the SA Heart and Stroke Foundation:

- A healthy diet (preferably low-GI and low-fat) and medication (if necessary) is essential to control blood sugar.
- Monitor and check your blood-glucose levels regularly.
- Give up smoking.
- Check your blood pressure regularly.
- Aim for a healthy weight with a BMI of less than 25, a waist measurement of less than 80cm for women and under 94cm for men.
- Eat a healthy varied diet with small, regular meals, including fibre-rich low-GI starches, beans, pulses and at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Cut down on your total fat intake, especially saturated fats from animal products. Sugar, salt and alcohol should only be used by people with well-controlled diabetes and then only in limited quantities.
- Be more physically active - aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week.
- Learn to deal with stress where possible - get the support you need and learn relaxation techniques.
- Look after your feet - report any cuts or problems to your doctor or nurse as soon as possible.
- Finally, have an annual review with your doctor to check your long-term glucose control, blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, general circulation and that you are not developing any diabetes-related complications.

Legumes like beans, lentils and soybeans are great for your heart because they are low fat and help to keep your cholesterol down. Legumes are also a great choice for diabetics as they have a low glycaemic index (GI) which helps sustain blood sugar levels and keep you satiated for longer. Try the Piquant three-bean salad from the bestselling Eating for Sustained Energy recipe book series (by Liesbet Delport and Gabi Steenkamp). It's very easy to prepare and the perfect low GI salad to take along to a bring-and-braai.

Salmon is another heart-smart choice as it's an excellent source of omega-3 poly-unsaturated fatty acids that help prevent blood clotting and inflammatory disease. It also improves your concentration and insulin sensitivity. Try the Honey and mustard baked salmon with roast sweet potatoes and onion.

Finally, add more whole grains like brown rice, lower-GI oatmeal and wheat cereals to your diet. They are packed with fibre which helps to get rid of bad cholesterol and also lowers blood glucose levels and insulin response. Try Ursula's breakfast muffins, which are very high in fibre.

(For more information on the Glycemic Index and other health tools visit

View recipes:

- Honey and mustard baked salmon with roast sweet potatoes and onion
- Ursula's breakfast muffins
- Piquant three-bean salad

Honey and mustard baked salmon with roast sweet potatoes and onion
(nutritional information per serving)

One serving is equivalent to 2 starch and 2 ½ protein.

GI low (55)

Kilojoules 1 472

Carbohydrates 32g

GL 18

Protein 22g

Fat 13g

Fibre 4g


Saturated fat 4g

(Birgit Ottermann, Health24, Diabetes Newsletter, September 2010)

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