I was diagnosed with diabetes at the young age of eleven; since then it has been forever embedded into my memory that diabetes affects everything, and I mean everything–from your head to your feet. Diabetes can take its toll on your eyesight causing vision changes or even blindness; circulation, causing neuropathy and even leading to amputation; dental health, leading to periodontal disease; kidneys, leading to kidney failure; and the heart, causing stress on blood vessels and even death from heart disease.
With it being heart month, let’s focus on the heart and how diabetes affects it. Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or a stroke than adults without diabetes. (http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Diabetes/WhyDiabetesMatters/Cardiovascular-Disease-Diabetes_UCM_313865_Article.jsp/#.VroweRgrKig). Even if my blood sugar levels are kept under tight control, I am still at twice the risk for heart disease than someone without the disease; so imagine what damage can be done if blood sugar levels are uncontrolled.
Here’s what we can do:
- Eat a “heart healthy” diet. Be mindful of saturated and trans fat by limiting meats, poultry skin, butter, dairy products with fat, shortening, lard, and tropical oils such as palm and coconut oil, crackers, cookies, snack foods, commercially-prepared baked goods, cake mixes, microwave popcorn, fried foods, salad dressings, and other foods made with partially hydrogenated oil. Eat foods high in fiber such as oat bran, oatmeal, whole-grain breads and cereals, dried beans and peas (http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/Diabetes/diabetes-heart-disease-stroke/Pages/index.aspx).
- Quit smoking! If you need help with smoking cessation, ask your doctor.
- Keep track of the ABCs of diabetes- Test your blood sugar as directed by your provider and have your A1C tested at least twice per year to ensure that you are meeting or beating the target percentage specified by your doctor. Keep your blood pressure at or below the target range set by your healthcare provider. Last but not least, have your cholesterol checked at least once per year to ensure levels are within normal range (http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/Diabetes/diabetes-heart-disease-stroke/Pages/index.aspx).
- Exercise! At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least five days per week or at least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least three days per week (http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Diabetes/WhyDiabetesMatters/Cardiovascular-Disease-Diabetes_UCM_313865_Article.jsp/#.VroweRgrKig).