TOP 10 WAYS TO PREVENT DIABETES - DIABETES HEALTH TIPS
Type 2 Diabetes: How to Protect Your Heart
All the steps you take to manage diabetes have another benefit — protecting your heart from diabetes complications. This is important because diabetes increases heart disease risk whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, says endocrinologist Debra Simmons, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Your risk for a heart attack could be two to three times greater than that of a person who doesn't have diabetes. That’s why other heart disease risk factors, like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, need to be part of your diabetes management plan, too.
The Facts About Diabetes and Heart Disease
It’s known that high blood sugar damages blood vessels over time, but researchers are still trying to understand the exact mechanics by which diabetes increases heart disease risk. According to a study published in the journalAtherosclerosis,data from 9,050 adults showed that people with diabetes are more likely to have stiffened arterial walls, a structural change resulting from higher blood sugar levels. People with diabetes may also have heart disease risk factors such as unhealthy cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, which increase heart disease risk even in the absence of diabetes. Being overweight or obese and physically inactive also raises heart disease risk.
Here are other facts to know:
- Men with diabetes are twice as likely to have a heart attack as their peers without diabetes.
- Women with diabetes are three times more likely to have a heart attack than women who don’t have diabetes.
- Both men and women with diabetes are more likely to have complications after a heart attack than people who don't have the disease are.
- People with diabetes are more likely to die from a heart attack than are those who don't have diabetes.
- Good diabetes control can lessen these risks. The higher your blood sugar levels are and the longer they stay that way, the greater your heart disease risk.
Diabetes and Heart Disease: Know All Your Numbers
You probably already have a goal for your blood sugar levels and your A1C — the measurement of your blood sugar control over two to three months — but it’s also important to know the numbers that signify good heart health:
- Your target blood pressure should be below 130/80 mmHg
- Your total cholesterol target should be at or below 200 mg/dL. To be healthy, LDL cholesterol should be at or below 100 mg/dL and HDL cholesterol should be at or above 60 mg/dL.
If you don’t know your blood pressure or cholesterol levels, ask your doctor to check and help you monitor them.
How to Protect Your Heart
The changes in diet and physical activity that work to help manage diabetes also work to help protect your heart. Take steps to:
- Control your blood sugar.The best way to slow diabetes complications, such as damage to your heart and blood vessels, is to meet the blood sugar goals you and your doctor have set. If you’re not there yet, keep working with your doctor to find the right treatment plan for you.
- Take medications as prescribed.If your doctor has prescribed medications to help you manage high blood pressure or high cholesterol, take them as diligently as you do your diabetes medications. Lifestyle changes like weight loss and increased physical activity could one day lead to smaller doses or no need for medication, but don’t stop taking them without your doctor’s guidance.
- Maintain a healthy weight.If you’re overweight or obese, try to get back to a healthy weight range. This is good for both diabetes and heart health. Losing just 5 percent of excess body weight will increase your body’s ability to use insulin and manage blood sugar, according to research in theBritish Journal of Nutrition.
- Eat a healthy diet.A diet that helps protect your heart and keeps your blood sugar under control is one that’s low in fat and salt and high in lean protein such as fish, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans. According to a study published in theArchives of Internal Medicine,people with diabetes who ate a cup of legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, or beans as part of their daily diet had better A1C measurements than those who didn’t. The study also found that eating beans regularly also lowered blood pressure. Consider working with a dietitian or certified diabetes educator who’s knowledgeable about heart disease to craft a diet plan that you like and can stick with.
- Exercise.Physical activity improves your body’s ability to process insulin and strengthens and protects your heart. If you haven’t been active for a while, ask your doctor what level of activity is appropriate for you, and then start slowly. Aim for a mix of strength training and cardiovascular exercise, and for a goal of being active at least 30 minutes most days of the week.
- Stop smoking.“Smoking alone increases heart disease risk, and diabetes also increases heart disease risk," Dr. Simmons explains. "The two together increase the risk even further." If you’re having trouble quitting, talk to your doctor about smoking cessation strategies.
Having diabetes increases your heart disease risk factors, but keeping the condition under control can decrease them. Be proactive about managing your diabetes and, in turn, your heart health.
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