Blood Sugar and Heart Health

SYoung Health Guide
  • Living with high cholesterol levels makes you really pay attention to your diet and to the nutritional information contained on most food products. That's been really hard for someone like me who not only enjoys fine dining (especially Italian food), but also has a real sweet tooth.

     

    One thing that I have recently been paying closer attention to when I have my quarterly cholesterol blood screen is my blood sugar levels. My numbers tend to run in the low to high-nineties (depending on what I have eaten in the few days leading up to my blood exam) and what is even more interesting is that if I have consumed a higher level of sugar in my diet in addition to my blood sugar levels being higher, I have noticed that my triglycerides number tends to be considerably higher as well. As my cardiologist explained to me, sugars have a fairly high impact on triglyceride levels. Sugar is a source of excess calories which is turned into fat - usually, triglycerides - so the fat levels in your blood go up.

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    So how bad can excess sugar be for your heart? In a study reported in this week's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, excess sugar is now linked to unhealthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels. In the study people who ate the most added sugar had the lowest HDL, or good cholesterol, and the highest blood triglyceride levels. People who ate the least sugar had the highest HDL and the lowest triglyceride levels. Basically, eating large amounts of added sugar more than tripled the risk of having low HDL, which is a major risk factor for heart disease.

     

    Dr. William Davis, an expert contributor here on the site, wrote a great article back in February about how you don't necessarily need to be a diabetic for blood sugar to act as a coronary risk factor. You can find his article here, and I urge everyone to read it.

     

    Cutting down on carbohydrates in your diet is a big step in the right direction to controlling the level of sugar in your system. I have taken some steps that hopefully will help me head in the right direction towards healthier living. In addition to reducing my bread intake, I have made a complete switch to eating exclusively whole wheat and dark breads. This gives me a much higher amount of fiber in my diet, and studies have shown that consuming wheat breads lowers the chances of heart disease by nearly 20 percent.  I have also switched to whole grain pasta which is a much healthier alternative than regular pasta. Finally, in the past six weeks I stopped putting sugar in my coffee and tea and have started using agave nectar, which has a lower glycemic index than table sugar. I will soon see if these changes are making an impact in my journey to heart health.

Published On: April 23, 2010