If you've ever been around someone in a foul mood, you know how contagious that can be. Your spouse is mad about something, and suddenly the most mundane things upset you too. This interconnectivity is similar to how your body functions — when one part isn't feeling well, the rest of your body reacts accordingly.
From your eyes to your feet, diabetes can affect your whole body, especially your heart. When your liver and pancreas are struggling, your heart also isn't in top shape, as the risk of heart attack or stroke increases in people with diabetes compared to those without the condition. People with diabetes are more prone to get heart disease that is more severe or starts at a younger age. So while proper diabetes care should include managing your blood sugar levels, you also need to think about the increased risk of heart disease and stroke related to your condition.
Both diabetes and heart disease are linked with unhealthy lifestyles and a complex interplay of other risk factors. Let us help you understand how diabetes increases your risk of heart troubles.
The Relationship Between Diabetes and Heart Disease
Diabetes can lead to conditions that are risk factors for heart disease, like hypertension and high cholesterol. Persistent high blood glucose levels or frequent fluctuations in glucose levels due to diabetes make the blood vessels prone to atheroma. This condition is a narrowing of the blood vessels due to collection of bad cholesterol. When the blood vessels narrow, blood flow has trouble reaching different organs in your body. A sudden stoppage of blood flow to the heart may cause a heart attack. When the blood supply to the brain is limited, a stroke can occur.
Know Your ABCs
A holistic diabetes care regimen is essential for achieving adequate control of diabetes and preventing related complications. Remembering your ABCs can help you lower your risk of diabetes-related heart disease.
A Is for A1c
A1c takes a note of your average blood glucose levels over the past few weeks or months. Proper diabetes care will ensure that your blood glucose levels are well controlled, so take your diabetes care seriously. Stick to your medications and attend all follow-up visits to your doctor. Maintaining a diabetes journal will also keep you motivated and help you notice whenever you are off track.
B Is for Blood Pressure
Narrowed blood vessels from diabetes can mean increased blood pressure. In fact, 80 percent people with type 2 diabetes and 25 percent people with type 1 diabetes have high blood pressure. High blood pressure is related to heart diseases like angina, heart attack and stroke. According to the latest guidelines, if your blood pressure is >130/90 mmHg, you should seek medical advice. If you have been diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure), follow the doctor's instructions about medicines, heart-healthy dietary changes and lifestyle modification. Do not skip the blood pressure medications without consulting your doctor. It is important to strictly follow the correct dose and timing of these medications to avoid complications.
C Is for Cholesterol
Because high cholesterol can narrow blood vessels and cause heart damage, people with diabetes should have a regular check of their cholesterol levels. If your cholesterol levels are high, you will likely need medications to keep them in check. You also need to reduce the amount of unhealthy fats in your diet. Talk to your diabetes dietician to find a meal plan that accounts for diabetes and heart disease.
Quit Smoking and Limit Drinking
Smoking damages the lining of your blood vessels and also promotes the fatty build-up that narrows the arteries. This increases the chances of heart conditions like angina, heart attack or a stroke. If you have diabetes and you smoke, your heart health is compromised manifold. Ask for support to help you quit smoking and improve your heart health.
You should also limit your alcohol intake. Depending upon how much you drink, alcohol can increase or reduce your blood glucose levels. Alcohol also interferes with the effect of your diabetes medications. While diabetes medications are working on reducing blood glucose, alcohol intake can cause the blood glucose to dip too low, resulting in medical emergencies like insulin shock. Alcohol also prevents the liver from doing its job, as liver is responsible for handling both alcohol metabolism and blood glucose levels.
While many people argue about the benefits of alcohol for protection from heart disease, it really is not a wise idea to start drinking in the name of heart health. Excessive drinking increases your blood pressure and also weakens your heart muscles, increasing the chances of cardiomyopathy and heart failure. Binge drinking can cause your heart to beat irregularly. Ask your doctor about your alcohol limit. Try to have some alcohol-free days in a week.
Move Away From Heart Disease
Both diabetes and heart disease are strongly related to a poor lifestyle. Hence, the benefits of an active lifestyle can never be stressed enough! Exercise helps reduce the major heart disease risk factors, such as obesity, hypertension and high cholesterol levels. It also increases insulin sensitivity and helps control diabetes.
Sit less and break your sitting time. Aim of at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking or cycling, every week. Before you begin a new exercise routine, though, be sure to clear it with your doctor. Make sure to wear properly fitting footwear with good cushioning to avoid any foot injury. If you feel a quick drop in blood glucose levels with exercise, talk to your doctor about this.
Ease the Stress
To cope up with stress, your body produces stress hormones, which increase your blood glucose levels and also make your body tissues less sensitive to insulin. Long-term stress can also increase your blood pressure, which in turn, increases your risk of heart disease. Routine stress may also make you inclined toward unhealthy behaviours like smoking, excessive drinking, binge-eating and avoiding physical activity. Vent off the stress with some recreational activities, and spending some quality time with friends and family . When in need, do not hesitate to reach out to a counsellor.
Know More to Protect Yourself
Staying informed helps you take precautions on time. It is extremely important to work towards a healthy heart when you have diabetes, but it doesn't hurt to know what to expect from heart diseases. You should know the warning signs of heart attack or stroke and reach out for help immediately if you experience any of them. Ask your doctor for helpful resources or discussion groups.
Making good lifestyle choices for a healthy heart is important for all people, but it becomes especially important when you have diabetes. Follow these tips and talk to your doctor about how you can best manage your diabetes and prevent diabetes-related heart problems.
Disclaimer: This publication/editorial/article is meant for awareness/educational purposes and does not constitute or imply an endorsement, sponsorship or recommendation of any Products. Please consult your doctor/healthcare practitioner before starting any diet, medication or exercise.