Year after year, heart disease is named the number one cause of death worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates that 17.9 million people die from it. Many are at risk of developing heart disease at some point in their life, but the possibility is higher for people with diabetes.
If you have diabetes, your chance of developing some form of cardiovascular disease is twice as high as those without this chronic condition. Up to 80% of all diabetes patients may eventually experience a stroke, heart attack, or heart failure. Type 2 diabetes patients have an even higher risk, making heart disease the leading cause of death for people suffering from it.
Living with diabetes already comes with its own set of challenges, and aside from religiously monitoring blood sugar levels and staying away from sweets, you will need to take extra care to keep your heart healthy, as well. Fortunately, there is a silver lining—the same simple lifestyle changes can help you combat both conditions simultaneously. Follow these tips for a healthy heart.
- Know your risks.
The first step to lowering your likelihood of developing heart disease is precisely to understand what it is. Researchers have identified factors that increase your susceptibility, which fall into three categories: major risk factors (age, gender, and race), modifiable risk factors (diabetes, physical inactivity, and obesity), and contributing risk factors (alcohol use, smoking, and stress).
The more risk factors you have and the greater the degree, the higher your chances of dying from heart complications.
There are tools available online that can help you estimate your odds of having a heart attack over the next ten years. This includes the Framingham Risk Calculator, American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes PhD, and the American Heart Association’s My Life Check. You may do this yourself or ask for assistance from your doctor.
After assessing your factors, the next step is to work to keep them low. The sooner you manage your risk factors, the better you can protect your heart’s health.
- Make better food choices.
A balanced diet is one of the best ways to have a healthy heart. Your controllable risk factors, such as blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol level, are significantly reduced if you choose the food you eat carefully. When planning your meals, keep these in mind.
- Prioritize vegetables and fruits, especially those with lots of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.
- Add more unsaturated fats by including more whole grains, vegetable oils (especially olive oil), and fish.
- Include low-fat dairy products, poultry, legumes, and nuts.
- Add more fiber, at least 30 grams a day. This is found in avocados, potatoes, apples, and carrots.
- Beverages, such as fruit juices or milk tea, contain a lot of sugar, so it is best to drink these less often.
- Reduce your intake of sweets, red meats, and salty or fried food.
- Trans fat and rapidly digested carbohydrates are often in fast food. If possible, cut them entirely out of your diet.
- Move more.
Exercise is necessary for everyone, but even more so for those trying to prevent heart disease. You can gain many benefits from being physically active—it improves blood pressure, corrects cholesterol, controls blood sugar, and strengthens the heart. Aim for at least 90 minutes of vigorous exercise or 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.
Commit to regular physical activity. Home workout programs contain excellent choices for vigorous exercise. You may also do other activities that can get your heart going, such as dancing or cycling. Playing a sport, like basketball or badminton, with your friends every other day can improve your emotional and physical health.
If that seems too overwhelming, start slow. If you can’t jog for 30 minutes a day, do 15 minutes instead. Maybe do a few jumping jacks during commercial breaks while watching TV. A great way to incorporate moderate exercise into your daily routine is to go walking. If applicable, instead of taking your car, walk to and from your workplace or to nearby destinations.
Doing anything that would make you sweat and get your body moving can be good for your heart.
Be Sweet to Your Heart
Love your heart and manage your risk factors by eating healthy and staying active. Taking your prescribed medication keeps diabetes and heart disease symptoms at bay, but as health professionals recommend, a healthy lifestyle is indeed key to fighting and preventing any diseases.
It is always best, however, to ask for direct advice from your doctor. A prevention plan that is specific to your needs may lower your risk even more.