Among the most common health conditions, many are battling include diabetes and heart disease. What you may not know is how closely related to each other they are. Most people diagnosed with type II diabetes also battle with two types of heart disease. Therefore, being able to recognize even subtle symptoms and taking action is essential for your heart health. Besides diabetes, there is another metabolic syndrome that imposes a risk of heart disease as well as being seen as a possible precursor to diabetes.
Why Patients with Diabetes Have a Higher Risk of Developing a Heart Disease?
According to the American Heart Association, insulin resistance is a metabolic syndrome that affects approximately 50 million Americans. It is common for those affected to have no associated symptoms of this syndrome, and it often causes the development of type II diabetes. Signs can include obesity, elevated blood sugar levels, high triglyceride levels and hypertension, which can stress the functioning of your cardiovascular system and increase your risk for heart disease. This risk extends to your coronary arteries as increased insulin levels, associated with insulin resistance, can be responsible for deposits of fats or plaques that stick to the walls of your arteries, leading to coronary artery disease. As insulin resistance has no direct effect on how you feel, you may only know about this syndrome by visiting your healthcare provider. Basically, if insulin resistance was a precursor to your diabetes diagnosis, you have been at risk for the development of heart disease for quite some time, possibly without even being aware.
What’s worse, you are never too young to be concerned. Type II diabetes can be diagnosed at all ages and only comes with subtle early warning signs. In fact, 1 out of every 3 people aren’t aware they have it. The end result is continued elevated blood sugar levels, which over time continues to raise your risk for heart disease.
Relationship Between Diabetes and Heart Disease
Most people affected by diabetes also have these two conditions of cardiovascular disease:
Coronary Artery Disease – Your heart houses your coronary arteries which can be narrowed by fatty deposits, also known as plaque. This increases your risk for a heart attack as the plaque could suddenly break, blocking the needed oxygen rich blood flow to your heart.
So, how does diabetes affect coronary artery disease? Well, the plaque that is formed, causing coronary artery disease contains more lipids and inflammatory cells in patients with diabetes as opposed to patients who do not have diabetes. Remember, if a diagnosis of diabetes was related to insulin resistance, the length of time this risk factor has existed may be unknown. Also, the increased blood sugar levels have been related to endothelial dysfunction. This can lead to the development of coronary artery disease as the inner lining of the blood vessels are not functioning properly.
Congestive Heart Failure – Over time your heart may lose its ability to effectively pump blood throughout your system. This is characterized by shortness of breath and leg swelling.
If you are diabetic or have a family history of diabetes; exercising, managing your blood sugar levels and eating a healthy diet are all great for the health of your heart.
Control Your Risk Factors
Eliminating the following risk factors and staying healthy by making simple changes to your lifestyle can reduce your risk of the development of diabetes, CVD:
- Being overweight, especially at the waist
- Physical Inactivity
- Poor diet with red or processed meats, high-fat dairy products and sweets
- Abnormal cholesterol levels such as a low HDL (good cholesterol) and high triglycerides
Decrease Your Risks with an Exercise Program and Healthy Diet
1. Keep Doing Moderate Exercise
Some individuals with diabetes need to take medication to lower blood pressure or improve cholesterol levels, as well as taking a daily aspirin to protect against heart disease. Yet for others, they could decrease the risk of developing diabetes, CVD by doing exercises and eating a healthy diet.
Incorporating moderate activity into your schedule can be done gradually.The recommendation is to work up to having 30-minute sessions at least 5 days per week. Moderate activity gets you physical enough to burn off 3 to 6 times of energy per minute as you would if you were sitting. Examples of moderate activity include the following:
- Brisk walking
- Heavy cleaning (vacuuming, mopping, washing windows)
- Manually mowing the lawn
- Bicycling with light effort
- Recreational badminton
- Pairs of tennis
2. Eat a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, fish and other lean protein is necessary for prevention and management of both diabetes and heart disease, for example the DASH diet. As this diet emphasizes so many healthy foods, weight loss can easily be supported. This diet focuses on portion size, eating a variety of foods and obtaining proper amounts of nutrition. The DASH diet prevails on the top for the following reasons:
- It offers more variety and is easy to follow for long-term use and benefits.
- Studies have shown the DASH diet decreases blood pressure and cholesterol and provides appropriate nutrition for diabetics.
- Better source for nutrition as it emphasizes on eating foods that are whole and fresh, providing fiber, protein and necessary nutrients.
As one of the most recognized and leading diets currently, DASH diet is a well balanced approach to eating in general and the USDA recommends this diet as the ideal eating plan for all Americans. Moreover, the DASH diet helps you determine your calorie intake based on your age and activity level, tells you where your calories should come from and especially important, reminds you to decrease your salt intake. DASH supports a maximum sodium (salt) intake of 2,300 mg a day then eventually working to stay below 1,500 mg. It’s a diet you can ease into, using the herbs and spices in your pantry to replace salt.
In summary, most Americans with diabetes are at risk for the development of heart disease without having any knowledge of it. If changes are made to support a healthy lifestyle, along with regular checkups by a healthcare provider, greater heart health can either be maintained or achieved with these efforts. If you have diabetes, knowledge and efforts to support prevention of heart disease are key to maintaining a healthy heart as you may have been at risk without knowing so.