How controlling your blood sugar benefits your heart

February 25, 2020 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Hearts

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), a survey of people age 45 or older with type 2 diabetes showed only about half of those surveyed recognized their risk for heart disease.

But when you have diabetes, heart disease is a real risk. In fact, diabetes is considered one of the seven major controllable risk factors of heart disease by the AHA.

“If you’re a diabetic, your risk for heart disease is as if you have already had an event,” says Ann Davis, M.D., an independent cardiologist and a member of Edward Hospital’s medical staff. “If you can watch the sugars and prevent diabetes with diet, exercise and lifestyle, you’ll do better in the long term.”

Consider these facts from the AHA’s Know Diabetes by Heart campaign:

  • People living with diabetes are two times more likely to develop and die from cardiovascular heart disease.
  • An adult with diabetes is hospitalized for heart disease every 80 seconds in the U.S. and every two minutes an adult with diabetes is hospitalized for stroke.
  • Having type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease shortens the life expectancy of an adult over 60 years of age by an average of 12 years.

Those with diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes, may have other risk factors such as an inactive lifestyle, obesity, high cholesterol or high blood pressure, that put them at risk for cardiovascular disease or stroke.

Preventing the onset of diabetes plays a key part in heart health, making a healthy lifestyle a key to prevention.

“If you don’t want to be a diabetic, eat like a diabetic,” Davis said, adding that it’s acceptable to make room for the occasional treat. “It’s about prevention, but don’t let perfection be the enemy of great.”

The AHA offers a few tips for those living with diabetes to help keep their risk for heart disease in check:

  • Know your numbers. According to the American Diabetes Association, a healthy blood sugar reading should be around 80-130 mg/dL before a meal or less than 180 mg/dL one to two hours after a meal. An A1C reading (a test that measures your blood sugar levels over the past three months) of less than 7 is considered good.
  • Check in with your doctor regularly. It’s important to work with your medical team to make sure your diabetes stays in check.
  • Adopt healthy eating habits that focus on lean meats, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and whole grains. Avoiding highly processed foods and sugary beverages will benefit both your heart and your blood sugar levels. Work with your medical team to make sure your diet helps you keep your blood sugar levels in check.
  • Exercise. The AHA recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity exercise. Not only does exercise help your heart, it also helps keep your blood sugar levels in check.
  • Take care of yourself. Find a hobby or something you enjoy doing to help lower stress levels. Lowering stress benefits your heart and helps keep you from stress eating foods that exacerbate diabetes.
  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Regularly monitor your cholesterol and blood pressure and check your weight.
  • Take your medications as prescribed.

Learn about diabetes care at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Personalized heart health starts here. Take a free HeartAware health assessment.

Related blog:

You have prediabetes — can you fix it?

Learn more from Healthy Driven Chicago:

Top risk factors for type 2 diabetes

Seven factors to know when managing diabetes

Ten tips for eating heart healthy

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