Many people with diabetes have heart disease. What foods, vitamins and supplements can help?
Start with fish and fish oils. Oily fish—such as salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines and albacore tuna— contain two helpful omega-3 fatty acids: EPA and DHA. Fish oil capsules usually have stronger doses of EPA and DHA.
Canned tuna and salmon have the highest levels of omega 3 fats. The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests people with heart disease get 1,000 mg of fi sh oil per day and people with a high triglyceride level get 2,000–4,000 mg.
Research shows omega-3 fats can:
- lower the incidence of an irregular heartbeat, which can lead to sudden death from a heart attack or stroke.
- lower triglycerides in people whose levels are high.
- reduce buildup of plaque on artery walls, which slows down the narrowing of the heart’s arteries.
- prevent blood clots from forming and keep the clots from sticking to artery walls. That helps prevent heart attack and stroke.
- improve health of arteries.
- lower blood pressure slightly.
- enhance the power of medicines called statins, which help improve cholesterol levels.
Flaxseed and fl axseed oil also have omega-3 fatty acids, which may help reduce triglyceride levels and improve good cholesterol (HDL) levels. Flaxseed oil is available in liquid and capsule form
Many people with diabetes are interested in finding vitamins and minerals that will keep their blood glucose level within target range. Here are a few products that show promise in studies, although more research is needed before all of their effects are known:
ALPHA LIPOIC ACID (ALA)
ALA is an acid found in the body that helps convert glucose to energy. It is also an antioxidant that may help prevent the damage free radicals may do to the body. A free radical is a molecule that can cause cells to malfunction, which can lead to complications from diabetes, such as kidney damage, eye disease and nerve damage.
ALA helps reduce the burning, pain, numbness and tingling of diabetes-related neuropathy (nerve damage). It may
also improve insulin sensitivity and blood glucose control in people with type 2 diabetes. It may take a few weeks to see results.
Chromium is a mineral the body needs to keep blood glucose levels in a healthy range. It may help lower blood
glucose levels and improve blood fats in people with type 2 diabetes whose levels are too high. Chromium picolinate is a form that seems to be absorbed best. Studies show combining chromium picolinate with biotin is effective. Biotin is a b vitamin that helps break down carbohydrate, fat and protein.
Based on early studies, cinnamon was thought to improve type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol levels. However,
newer studies show more research must be done to confirm its effectiveness. Many people enjoy adding cinnamon
to their food to see if it will make a difference for them. The recommended amount to try is about 1⁄3 teaspoon.
Several studies show that Fenugreek helps lower blood glucose and bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and raises good (HDL) cholesterol levels in people with diabetes.
Garlic appears to have antioxidant effects. It also may lower blood glucose by increasing the release of insulin, lower blood pressure, and improve blood fats.
Studies show that ginseng lowers blood glucose. It appears to do so by slowing the breakdown of carbohydrates in the body. It may take a few weeks to see benefits.
Gymnema was first used in India more than 2,000 years ago to treat diabetes. It may help insulin and other oral diabetes medicines work better but must be studied further.
The body needs magnesium to break down carbohydrates and improve the way insulin works. Low levels of magnesium have been linked to higher blood glucose levels and insulin resistance in adults.
Recent studies show vitamin D may help the body make insulin and use it better. A lack of vitamin D has been found in many people with type 2 diabetes, and in some people who already have pre-diabetes. For those who get enough sunlight, 400 IU of vitamin D is recommended. If you cannot go in the sun, you may benefit from 1,000 IU per day. Those who are concerned about osteoporosis should take calcium with vitamin D.
Vitamins C and E are antioxidants that may lower your heart disease risk by preventing bad (LDL) cholesterol from producing plaque that narrows arteries. Vitamin E also may help keep your heart healthy. Try to eat a diet high in vitamin E, which is found in green leafy vegetables, nuts and vegetable oils. Vitamin E works better when combined with vitamin C, so try to take these vitamins together. The recom mended daily intake of vitamin C for men over the age of 18 is 90 mg per day, and for women over the age of 18, 75 mg per day. Smoking raises the body’s need for vitamin C.
The AHA suggests that people who are at high risk for, or already have heart disease, should get folate, B6 and B12 into their diets. One way to get these nutrients is to eat a lot of vegetables. Or, take a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement that provides 100 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for folic acid, B6 and B12. Recent studies suggest vitamin B12 helps the brain think more clearly, and may help prevent age-related decline in brain function.
Niacin is a B vitamin that lowers total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels, while raising HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Niacin supplements should only be taken under the supervision of your physician because of potential side effects such as flushing or hot flashes. The average daily dose of niacin is 1.5–3 grams per day.
Co-Q10 is a natural antioxidant made in the heart, pancreas and kidneys. It helps cells produce energy and keeps the heart healthy. If a person has already had a heart attack, Co-Q10 can help prevent future heart problems. Some heart medicines, such as statins, interfere with the body’s production of Co-Q10. Heart disease also can lower the body’s level of that helpful product. The best way to maintain a healthy level of Co-Q10 in your body is to take a supplement. The recommended dose for adults is 30–200 mg per day.
PLANT STANOLS AND STEROLS
Plant stanols and sterols are natural substances found in fruits and vegetables. They can help lower bad (LDL) cholesterol by up to 15% and lower the risk of heart disease. They can also work with cholesterol-lowering medications, such as statins, to lower the body’s LDL level. Smaller amounts of these products are also naturally found in corn oil, sunfl ower oil, olive oil, corn, beans, nuts, oranges and apples. Plant stanols and sterols also come in supplement form sometimes called betasitosterol or sitosterol.
Tell your healthcare provider about the dietary supplements you take, or ask about supplements you wish to try. They can warn you about the products that may interact with your other medicines and let you know if you need to stop taking any before surgery.