Heart Disease and Diabetes: 5 Ways to Reduce Your Risk

Melanie Thomassian Health Pro

    November is American Diabetes Month, and this month the American Diabetes Association are asking... how will you stop diabetes? 


    Across the world 300 million people are affected by diabetes.


    But, why should this concern you?


    Well, people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop heart disease, compared to the rest of the population. Also, if you are diabetic, heart disease can progress much quicker than it normally would. 


    Why the strong link?

    When blood sugars are consistently high, it can lead to damage of your arteries. Diabetes is thought to damage the heart in a number of ways:

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    • High blood sugars can cause the blood vessels to become narrow, or clog up completely.
    • Diabetes may affect the heart muscle itself, and so it becomes less efficient as a pump.
    • Diabetes can even affect the nerves to the heart, so symptoms of angina, for example, may not be felt in the normal way, possibly delaying diagnosis.
    • You may also have higher triglyceride levels, and lower levels of HDL cholesterol when you have diabetes. 
    • And, you are more likely to have high blood pressure.


    However, the future is in your hands... this is the message I want to get across to you this American Diabetes Month.


    Remember, your actions will always have a consequence -- by following a healthy lifestyle, you can reduce your risk of these disease complications.


    So, what can you do to reduce your risk? Here are 5 pointers:


    1. Blood Sugars

    Try to maintain your blood sugar levels within the normal range, as this can prevent, or delay, blood vessel damage. 


    You can do this by following a healthy, whole food diet made up of vegetables, fruits, legumes, wholegrains, healthy fats, lean meats, oily fish, nuts, and seeds, and staying clear of packaged, overly processed foods, and too much salt.


    Eating at regular intervals can also help to keep your blood sugars more level.


    Aim for blood sugar reading of 70 - 130mg/dL before your meals, and if testing after eating, less than 180mg/dL (1-2 hours after a meal).


    2. Measure Your Waist

    Researchers believe that carrying too much fat around your stomach can quadruple your risk of diabetes and heart disease.


    High risk:


    • Women with waists over 35in (89cm).
    • Men with waists over 40in (102cm).


    If you are very short or very tall, it's better to work out your waist-to-height ratio (your waist should be less than half of your height).


    3. Blood Pressure

    Because of the risks of high blood pressure to people with diabetes, the American Diabetes Association, and the National Institutes of Health, recommend a lower blood pressure target, than what is generally recommended.


    That is, a blood pressure of less than 130/80 mmHg.


    Blood pressure can be controlled with healthy lifestyle changes, including changes to your diet, increasing exercise, and taking prescribed medication (if necessary).


    4. Cholesterol

    If your blood sugar levels, and blood pressure are high, it's quite probable that your cholesterol levels will also be off.


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    To reduce your risk for diabetes and heart disease, aim for these numbers:


    • LDL Cholesterol: Less than 100 mg/dL
    • HDL Cholesterol: Greater than 60 mg/dL
    • Triglycerides: Less than 150 mg/dL


    5. Avoid Being Sedentary 

    The best way to be more active is to fit exercise around what you do already, rather trying to make massive adjustments to your current schedule.


    So, you could begin by trying to move around more throughout the day — if you sit at a desk all day, try doing some chair exercises; or take walks on your lunch break; join an exercise class straight after work; and exercise in front of your TV in the evenings.


    Do whatever you can to take more steps in your day... it all adds up, and it will be worthwhile in the end.


    So, how will you stop diabetes and heart disease from ruining your health?


    Melanie Thomassian is a registered dietitian, who shares healthy eating ideas on her blog, and is the author of the new Healthy Eating Handbook.


Published On: November 08, 2010