By KAMEL ABOUDA, MD
Espanola Family Care Clinic
Sometimes trouble comes in twos—like heart disease and diabetes. And these two diseases are actually linked in three ways.
- Unhealthy lifestyle habits. Obesity, lack of physical activity and an unhealthy diet can set the stage for developing both heart disease and diabetes. High blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and smoking also raise the risk for both diseases.
- Having diabetes can lead to heart disease. A man’s risk for heart disease is doubled if he has diabetes, whereas a woman’s risk is tripled. That’s partly because high blood glucose―the hallmark sign of diabetes―damages blood vessels. This leads to blood vessel disease, strokes and heart attacks. And after a heart attack, people with diabetes are more likely to have chest pain and develop ongoing heart problems.
- Having heart disease may lead to conditions that put you at risk for diabetes. Heart disease is one of the most common causes of heart failure. Heart failure is a condition in which the heart is weak and can’t pump enough blood. In a recent study, patients with heart failure were more likely to develop diabetes over three years than patients who didn’t have heart failure. Researchers think heart failure changes the way the body uses the hormone insulin. This leads to excess glucose in the blood and, eventually, to diabetes.
Get the Upper Hand
Clearly, heart disease and diabetes are closely linked—no matter which comes first. To prevent or manage both conditions, there is no substitute for a healthy lifestyle.
- If you are overweight, try to lose weight. Weight loss can improve blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol. Even losing 10 pounds can help.
- Get regular exercise. Like losing weight, physical activity helps tame blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose. Talk with your doctor about the best exercise program for you.
- Enjoy a healthy diet. Foods with fiber—such as whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables—can help you manage both blood glucose and cholesterol. Cutting down on unhealthy fats, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars also helps keep arteries healthy.
- Take all your medications as prescribed. This reduces your risk for serious problems, like a heart attack or stroke, and helps you stay out of the hospital.
By focusing on these lifestyle steps, you can help take care of two troubling conditions at once.