By Kristin Traverson
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and diabetes is on the rise. Most people may glaze over the correlation between the two, but it is an existent issue. These conditions can have an effect on one another, and not in your favor.
Being proactive and learning about the two diseases and how you can make lifestyle adjustments will give you the leverage you need for a better quality of life.
What is Cardiovascular Disease?
Cardiovascular disease, also known as CVD, refers to a number of conditions including heart disease, heart attack, stroke, heart failure, arrhythmias and heart valve problems. Heart disease is often related to atherosclerosis, the build-up of plaque in and on the walls of arteries. A heart attack happens when blood flow to a part of the heart is prevented by a blood clot. Plaque build-up and blood clots in arteries can cause a stroke. There are two different types of strokes: the most common is an ischemic stroke, when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel to the brain, causing a stroke due to lack of blood flow. The other is a hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when a blood vessel bursts and is often correlated with high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association.
Heart failure occurs when the heart isn’t pumping blood properly, and it is important to recognize that “heart failure” does not mean the heart has stopped beating. Arrhythmias are irregular heartbeats which, in some cases, may affect the supply of blood and oxygen the body is getting. Lastly, heart valve problems are cases in which the valves may not open and/or close properly.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition in which your blood sugar is elevated above the normal range and insulin is affected. Insulin is a hormone responsible for getting sugar from the bloodstream into the cells of the body and may not function properly when there is too much sugar. With too much sugar in the blood stream, along with the absence or dysfunction of insulin, comes the diagnosis of diabetes.
In Type I diabetes, your body does not supply the insulin, and these diabetics are typically diagnosed early on in life. Type II diabetes, the most common type of diabetes, can develop at any age. In Type II, your body does not produce or utilize insulin correctly due to the path of developing insulin resistance. This leads to the inability of the pancreas to produce insulin. If Diabetes is not treated, many health problems may arise alongside it.
How CVD and Diabetes Are Connected
How are these two conditions linked? Specifically looking at heart failure, it is not uncommon that someone who has this condition may also suffer from Type II diabetes. According to the American Heart Association, a person diagnosed with Type II diabetes is two to four times more likely to develop heart failure versus a person who is not diabetic.
It is a two-way street with both conditions, as heart failure is a risk factor for diabetes due to the lack of transportation of oxygenated blood. Common characteristics between the two conditions are insulin resistance and a high incidence of inflammation. Individuals diagnosed with one or both of the conditions most likely will have more visits to the hospital, a shorter life span and poor overall health, therefore, impacting their quality of life.
Good News: You Are in Control
Being diagnosed with CVD or diabetes does not mean you are not in control of your life. Being physically active, eating a healthy well-rounded diet and maintaining your weight can benefit you in the years to come. It’s never too late to get started.
Exercise benefits include:
- Increased insulin sensitivity (which combats the insulin resistance diabetics face)
- Help with weight control
- Lowered blood sugar
- Improved mood and reduced stress
- Boosts of energy
Fueling your body with the nutrients it needs is just as important as exercise. Taking a little extra time and effort to watch what you are putting into your body will go a long way.
What to eat:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Low-fat dairy products
- Poultry and fish
- Nuts and legumes
- Non-tropical oils (e.g., olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, etc.)
What to avoid large quantities of:
- Saturated fat
- Trans fat
- Sugary beverages
Keep Track of Your Health
Keep up to date on your health. Watch your cholesterol levels and pay attention to blood pressure patterns. Be sure to ask your Provider to explain to you what your readings mean if you are unsure. Questions are important and will only benefit you in the end, so don’t be afraid to ask.
If you find yourself wondering and have specific concerns, make a list that you can take with you the next time you see your Provider, that way you don’t forget, and you can get the answers you need.
For more information about the Cardiopulmonary services available at Prowers Medical Center and how to prevent heart disease, call 719-336-6731. To schedule an appointment with your primary care Provider, call 719-336-6767.