almost upon us, most will soon be thinking of matters of the heart. Love, relationships, romance – they will all
be at the forefront of our minds.
Interestingly, for those of us with diabetes, we should also take
advantage of the red reminders to think about our hearts and our risk for heart
disease. Already, the media is barraging
us with images of women in red and stories of heart health, and rightfully so! Heart disease is the number one killer in
this country! I hope you are paying
attention to these ads, pleas and educational campaigns because heart disease
is also the number one complication of diabetes.
having diabetes means:
with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have a heart attack or
stroke as someone without diabetes.
We are more likely to die of a heart attack
than one without diabetes.
Our risk of sudden death from a heart attack
is the same as that of someone who has already had a heart attack. That's why
diabetes is called a heart disease equivalent.
statistics, according to the Mayo Clinic, nearly 70 percent of people with
diabetes aren't aware that they're at an increased risk of heart attack and
The reality is scary: deaths from heart
disease in women with diabetes have increased 23 percent over the past 30
years, compared to a 27 percent decrease in women without diabetes. Deaths from heart disease in men with
diabetes have decreased by only 13 percent compared to a 36 percent decrease in
men without diabetes.
and diabetes are twin epidemics and
must be taken seriously.
defines heart disease or
cardiovascular disease as a number of
conditions affecting the structures or function of the heart. These conditions
Coronary artery disease
Abnormal heart rhythms or arrhythmias
Heart valve disease
Congenital heart disease
Heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy)
Vascular disease (blood vessel
Because of the enormity of this disease state
and category, it is no surprise that cardiovascular disease is the leading
cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. There are steps we all can take to avoid
diabetes related heart problems.
is as easy as the ABC’s.
A – keep your
A1c in the recommended range.
B – keep your
blood pressure under control.
C – keep your
cholesterol under control.
the ABC’s in a little more detail.
A is for
A1c. An A1c is a test that is done
through a blood draw – either intravenous or finger stick every three
months. It gives an average of blood
sugar levels for a 2 to 3 month period.
The target measurement is below 7%.
In other words, your blood sugar has been on average below 150
mg/dl. (Most medical organizations are
now recommending the target A1c of 6-6.5%, or your average blood sugar is below
B is for
blood pressure. We hear those words a
great deal, but are we sure we know what blood pressure is?
pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the walls of the arteries,
where it is transported throughout the body. Each time the heart beats, it
pumps out blood into the arteries. Your blood pressure is at its highest when
the heart beats, pumping the blood. This is called systolic pressure. When the
heart is at rest, between beats, your blood pressure falls. This is the
blood pressure reading is 120/80 with
some variances for age. But, you must
remember your blood pressure target could be lower. It all depends on where you start and where
your body averages. For example, my
ideal blood pressure is 115/65-70. That is based on my history and my
C is for
cholesterol. I don’t know about you, but
I always get this one confused. The good, the bad, and the ugly – what does it
all mean? First, you should know that
you should have your cholesterol checked at least once a year. Your target is LDL (bad) cholesterol is below
100 and HDL (good) cholesterol should be below 40 in men and below 50 in
women. Your triglycerides – which are
another fat in the blood – should be below 150.
Now you have
the basics. Don’t get discouraged
though. There are plenty of action steps
to take right now to improve your heart health, whether you already have heart
disease or not. Really, these are all
common sense. We know them, have heard
them a million times, but they are worth repeating.
Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and
Kidney Diseases, and the American Diabetes Association all recommend a
combination of the following for optimal heart health and heart disease
Make physical activity a part of your
Aim for at least 30 minutes of
cardiovascular exercise most days of the week. (Walking, biking, anything that
gets your ticker pumping harder than normal!) Check with your doctor to learn
what activities are best for you.
Remember, you can space out your exercise – if you are a beginner, try
walking 10 minutes after each meal.
Make sure that the foods you eat are
High fiber foods are particularly good
for you! Try incorporating more oat
bran, oatmeal, whole-grain breads and cereals, fruits, and vegetables. Cut back
on foods high in saturated fat or cholesterol, such as meats, butter, dairy
products with fat, eggs, shortening, lard, and foods with palm oil or coconut
Lose weight if you need to.
Consult your medical team for
recommendations on if you need to and how to lose weight.
If you smoke, quit.
Consult your medical team for
strategies to help you quit smoking.
Ask your doctor whether you should
take an aspirin every day.
Studies have shown that taking a low
dose of aspirin (baby aspirin) every day can help reduce your risk of heart
disease and stroke.
Take your medicines as directed.
these strategies can help you reach your ABC targets. For more specific ideas on food choices,
consider the following from the American Diabetes Association.
Eat less fat, especially saturated fat
(found in fatty meats, poultry skin, butter, 2% or whole milk, ice cream,
cheese, palm oil, coconut oil, trans fats, hydrogenated oils, lard, and
Choose lean meats and meat
Switch to low-fat or fat-free dairy
Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and
vegetables each day.
Cut back on foods that are high in
cholesterol (such as egg yolks, high-fat meat and poultry, and high-fat dairy
Choose the kinds of fat that can help
lower my cholesterol, such as olive oil or canola oil. Nuts also have a
healthy type of fat.
Eat fish two or three times a week,
choosing kinds that are high in heart-protective fat (such as albacore tuna,
herring, mackerel, rainbow trout, sardines, and salmon).
Cook using low-fat methods (such as
baking, roasting, or grilling foods or by using nonstick pans and cooking
Eat more foods that are high in fiber
(such as oatmeal, oat bran, dried beans and peas like kidney beans, fruits, and
Eat less salt and sodium.
Since food seems to be the constant dirty
word for those of us with diabetes, it doesn’t hurt to give a few more
recommendations on how to change the way you spice up your foods. Here are a few more tips on eliminating fat
from our cooking and becoming more heart healthy….
Use a low-fat or fat-free way to
cook. You can cut down on total fat by broiling,
baking, roasting, steaming, or grilling foods. Nonstick pans and cooking sprays
also work well.
Boost the flavor with seasonings and
sauces instead of fats. Look for recipes
that use herbs and spices for flavor instead of fat. Squeeze fresh lemon juice
on steamed vegetables, broiled fish, rice, or pasta
lemon pepper or mesquite seasoning on chicken
onion and garlic to liven up meats and vegetables
baking chicken or pork with barbecue sauce or low-fat Italian dressing
Saturated fat, trans fat,
and cholesterol increase your blood cholesterol and can cause a buildup of
materials that can clog your blood vessels and lead to heart disease.
Basically, these types of fat block the blood supply and can cause severe
damage your blood vessels.
bacon and bacon grease
coconut and coconut oil
high-fat dairy products, such as
cheese, cream, ice cream, whole milk, 2% milk, and sour cream
fatback and salt pork
gravy made with meat drippings
lard and shortening
high-fat meats like regular ground
beef, bologna, hot dogs, sausage, and spareribs
palm oil and palm kernel oil
-unsaturated Fatty Acids (trans fats)
of trans fats:
processed foods like snacks and
baked goods with hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil
some fast food items such as french
I don’t know
about you, but I would rather be prepared than be sorry. Especially now with a small child to think
about, I want to make sure I have all the information possible.
The New Year
is a good time to think about heart health – in a variety of fashions. This month, I challenge you to also consider
talking with your family members about their heart health and about your family
history. Take the time to learn whom in your
family tree has had heart disease and if you have an increased risk because of
genetics outside of diabetes.