Diabetes and Your Cardiovascular Health
What’s Glucose Got to Do with My Heart and Lungs?
Quite a bit, as it turns out. Having diabetes means you have too much glucose, or sugar, in your blood. The reason may be that your pancreas does not create insulin, which processes the glucose, or that the insulin your body creates doesn’t work as well as it should. Another possibility is that your body may not respond well to insulin. This is known as insulin resistance.
High glucose can damage heart-related blood vessels and nerves. That makes a heart attack more likely because the damage prevents blood from getting to the heart. Similarly, a stroke can happen when blood is prevented from reaching the brain.
Even when glucose is controlled, people with diabetes are at higher risk for CVD. That’s because of conditions more common to them, such as:
- High Blood Pressure (Hypertension). When a person has high blood pressure, blood moves through their arteries with more force, making the heart pump harder. Also, high BP can damage blood vessels and the walls of the arteries. The combination of hypertension and diabetes can double the risk for CVD.
- Unhealthy Cholesterol Levels. People with diabetes often have high levels of low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, known as the “bad cholesterol,” and low levels of high-density lipoproteins, or HDL, the “good cholesterol” in their bloodstream. When cholesterol builds up it can clog blood vessels and lead to heart disease. A high level of triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood, is another risk.
- Inactivity. Lack of physical activity is closely tied to CVD. There are great health benefits in formal exercise like walking or cycling. But everyday activities like housework, gardening, and running after the kids counts too! Movement plus weight loss can even prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes and reduce the chance for heart attack or stroke.
- Obesity. Excess weight is a big risk factor for CVD. Losing weight can increase your ability to process glucose. And even if you’re not overweight, extra belly fat increases your chance of developing heart disease.
- Smoking. Smoking puts people with diabetes, and others, at risk for heart disease and stroke. If you don’t smoke, don’t start! And if you do smoke, it’s time to quit. According to the Mayo Clinic, within just three months of quitting, you’ll cut your risk of heart disease in half!
- Family History. Heart disease runs in families. Although you can’t choose your DNA, you can choose a lifestyle that will reduce the risk.
Your healthcare provider may suggest that you check your BP regularly using an at-home blood pressure monitor.
The ABCs of Heart and Blood Vessel Health
Now that you know the risks, what can you do to reduce them? A handy way to think about this is managing your “Diabetes ABCs.”
A is for A1C.
Regular A1C blood tests can track your average glucose level over a two-to-three-month period. Many people with diabetes strive for a level below 7, but your doctor will confirm the level that’s best for you. Try to stay in the range your healthcare provider set for you as much as possible.
Reduce your A1C by following your diabetes care plan. That may include taking insulin or other medications, sticking with a meal plan, and exercising regularly.
B is for Blood Pressure.
For most people with diabetes, the current consensus is a BP of less than 140/80 is optimal. A more aggressive goal below 130/80 is recommended for some people depending on individual risk factors. Talk to your doctor about your ideal BP.
C is for Cholesterol.
Learn your ideal level for good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol. Cholesterol can build up and clog the blood vessels, causing a stroke or heart attack. High cholesterol doesn’t cause symptoms. That’s why you need to be checked regularly.
S is for Stop Smoking.
There’s a lot of support out there if you’re finally ready to kick the habit. Check with your healthcare team or search online for local smoking cessation groups; many are free to join. The federal government has some great resources too.
If you’re beginning to see a pattern here, you’re right! The good news for people like you with the mindset to do all they can to manage their CVD risk is that the “recipe” for health has many familiar elements. Now it’s up to you to do your part (and we know you can!).
There are great health benefits in formal exercise like walking or cycling. But everyday activities like housework, gardening, and running after the kids counts too!
HCD Is Your Partner in Cardiovascular Health
When you partner with your care team, the result can be lasting improvements to your health and happiness for years to come. At HCD, we’re honored to be part of the solution by supplying the insurance-covered medical products you need, when you need them. Once you connect with us, we’ll do everything we can to make getting the supplies you need easier for you. That includes making sure you are qualified through your insurance company, completing all the paperwork, and working directly with your physician and insurance company.
Enter your phone number on the bottom left of the screen and one of our friendly team members will give you a call. We look forward to caring for you like family, because to us, that’s what you are.