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Diabetes and Heart Health

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), “…Diabetes is treatable, but even when glucose levels are under control it greatly increases the risk of heart disease and stroke”. Furthermore, the AHA considers diabetes to be one of the seven major controllable risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Persons with diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes, may have medical conditions that elevate their risk factors for heart disease. Education equals empowerment; thus, this article will focus on how you can reduce your risk of heart disease by addressing some key health areas.

High blood pressure is a known risk factor for heart disease. As a person with diabetes, there are many things you can do to control your blood pressure. Increasing physical activity (to at least 150 minutes a week as a target goal), reducing sodium intake (many doctors advocate 1500mg/sodium daily intake for their patients with heart disease), smoking cessation, and stress reduction are easy ways to reduce your blood pressure. More importantly, taking your prescribed medication as directed is paramount to controlling blood pressure.

Abnormally high blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides greatly increase your risk of heart disease. Again, a person with diabetes can positively affect these blood levels by simple dietary changes. Less fatty and processed meats, more lean proteins (fish, chicken), increased water intake, more whole grains and oats in your diet, and increasing your physical activity usually lower your cholesterol levels. In addition, your doctor may prescribe “statin” therapy, which are medications to lower blood cholesterol levels.

Obesity is a major risk factor in both diabetes and heart disease. Thus, weight loss, can improve cardiovascular disease as well as increase insulin sensitivity. As little as 5- 10% weight loss has been shown to dramatically lower these risk factors. Seek professional guidance when beginning a new weight loss regimen, as changes in your body weight can often mean less need for medications. This is good news, but you may need to be monitored more closely when undertaking a new dietary lifestyle. Consult with your doctor, dietitian, and diabetes educators for guidance.

For more information on diabetes management, and good heart health, head on over to the AHA and ADA (American Diabetes Association) websites. Both have a wealth of information on good health practices for the year ahead.

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