PCN workshops forestall risks of heart disease, type-2 diabetes

“Eat close to nature, increase plant-based foods, avoid over-processed products and raise your activity levels.” These are the core messages Bow Valley PCN’s Registered Dietitian Zarifa Salzgeber delivers in two workshops: Heart-Full Nutrition and Pre-Diabetes: Diet Essentials.

Perhaps you have been diagnosed with elevated blood sugar levels, or have a family history of diabetes. Are you concerned about your cholesterol count or blood pressure numbers? If so, then these classes will simplify the seemingly overwhelming mass of information and misinformation that seems to be everywhere and encourage you to discuss your concerns.

Make healthier lifestyle choices

Current estimates are that more than nine million Canadian adults are living with diabetes or pre-diabetes and these numbers continue to grow*. With heart disease affecting around 2.4 million people, it is one of the primary reasons for hospitalization in Canada**. However, making healthy lifestyle choices can help prevent or at least delay the onset of these conditions. “And there’s more good news,” says Zarifa, “such changes can moderate stress levels and minimize the use of some medications.”

“The dietary advice is similar for averting both disorders,” continues Zarifa. “Be curious about what you eat: cut out ultra-processed foods, such as chips, candies, and pre-made meals and limit deli meats.” The recommendations include foods described in the Mediterranean diet, rich in wholegrain cereals, fresh fruit and vegetables and low in processed, salty and sugary products. On the healthier list, along with lean meats, fatty fish and even wild meats, are plant-based proteins: beans, lentils, peas, nuts and seeds. Pulses, which are also high in fibre, decrease cholesterol, regulate blood sugars and give a feeling of fullness.

Tackle stress

Zarifa also points out that many of us lead high-paced, stressful lives that have the potential to escalate the risks of heart disease and affect our emotional health. She explains, “For example, while sugary drinks and processed snack foods can cause spikes in mood swings, balancing proteins, carbohydrates and vegetables sustains energy and calms mood fluctuations. What’s more, adding physical activity to these positive food choices can help tackle stress.”

The two workshops encourage small, incremental changes that are easier to sustain than dramatic adjustments. They also provide a forum for participants to exchange ideas and learn from each other. “It’s not rocket science,” Zarifa says, “and the simple message is that if you want to decrease your risks of developing either of these diseases, you really can do something about it.

*Diabetes Canada

**Heart disease in Canada: Highlights from the Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System