Individuals diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes are at risk for developing several health problems, the most life-threatening being cardiovascular, or heart disease.
The American Heart Association (AHA) reports that adults with Type 2 diabetes are up to four times more likely to die from heart disease. Although the condition can be treated, the risk still exists even when your blood sugar levels are under control. That’s because the disorder is closely linked to risk factors that contribute to strokes and heart attacks.
Hardening of the arteries is the most common cause of heart disease related to diabetes. Cholesterol collects in the blood vessels resulting in the build-up of plaque that may rupture or break apart. Your body responds by sending platelets to seal the rupture. These platelets can block the supply of blood carrying oxygen to the heart. Fortunately, the AHA says the condition is among controllable risk factors for heart disease.
Control Type 2 Diabetes by Losing Weight
Obesity has been strongly associated with the onset of the disorder. Losing weight can lower blood sugar levels by decreasing insulin resistance. The amount of weight loss to achieve this effect varies from person to person. The Mayo Clinic says losing five to 10 percent of your body weight can make a difference for most.
Consult your doctor for advice on how much weight you should lose. Make a healthy diet your first component for losing weight. Focus on a nutritious diet that emphasizes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats from cold-water fish and nuts. You should drastically limit refined foods and sugar.
Get Regular Exercise
Strive for at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity weekly. This should be spread over three to four days with no more than two days in a row of inactivity. Don’t make it all about cardio. Go for two to three sessions of strengthening resistance-based exercise weekly. Exercise will greatly help with weight loss as well as lowering your blood sugar. Your body will be able to better use glucose and insulin both in the short term and over time. Blood sugar levels will be lower and more stable.
Keep Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Low
Everyone should strive to have good blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and this is especially true for diabetics. As we age, this becomes more difficult. A decline in the hormone estrogen can pose a risk for heart disease in post-menopausal women who experience several body changes. Blood pressure begins to climb, and LDL or “bad” cholesterol increases while HDL or “good” cholesterol declines. Men over 45 experience andropause after male hormones decline. Coronary heart disease has been linked to low levels of testosterone in men. Diet and exercise can help with both blood pressure and cholesterol, but some people may need blood-lowering and/or cholesterol-lowering medications.
Take Medications as Prescribed
If you have had difficulty keeping your blood sugar in check, your doctor may prescribe medication. If so, it’s important to take it regularly to avoid complications. The first line of medication is usually metformin, which reduces the amount of glucose the liver produces. Your body will improve how it uses insulin, allowing you to manage your blood sugar more easily. Other medications either help your body make more insulin or make your body more sensitive to it. Some people are prescribed insulin therapy, which you must administer with self-given shots. Your doctor will decide the right medication for you.
Monitor Your Blood Sugar
Your doctor will also advise you on how and when to check your blood sugar. Although you will probably have clues from the way you feel, monitoring the blood glucose level is the only sure way to know when you are in the correct range. This is important because severely low and high levels can be life-threatening.
You may be prescribed a blood glucose meter, which works by pricking your finger for a drop of blood to place on a test strip. Other devices include a continuous glucose monitor that uses a sensor inserted under the skin, but you may still be required to prick your finger.
By managing your lifestyle through diet and exercise, consulting with your doctor and self-monitoring blood sugar levels, you can reduce your risk of heart disease.