Diabetes and Cardiovascular Health

imageThe occurrence of diabetes.
Diabetes is a national epidemic that affects millions of people worldwide.  In 2015 the CDC National Diabetes Report indicated that 30.3 million (9.4% of the national population) had diabetes. Over 1 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes each year. This disease has tremendous systemic effects on the body, in particular, the cardiovascular system.

What is diabetes?
We all need some sugar (glucose) in our diet to sustain life.  However, when your body no longer has the ability to process and use sugar correctly it begins to cause a problem.  The main hormone responsible is insulin, which is produced in the pancreas.
The disease can be due to a genetic condition or it can be acquired over time. When the body is overwhelmed by high glucose levels over a sustained period of time, it loses the ability to regulate glucose levels.  The body then develops a resistance to insulin.

Genetics and family habits.
If you have a family history of diabetes, you are more likely to be afflicted by it yourself. Type 1 diabetes is a polygenic disease, which means that multiple genes play a role in whether one gets it or not. But genetics isn’t the only factor. Diabetes is also brought on by environmental factors such as one’s upbringing. Typically, families who eat healthy, exercise regularly and avoid high-risk behaviors like smoking and regular alcohol-consumption pass on those habits to their children. As a result, the children are less likely to be afflicted with diseases such as diabetes.

Diabetes and the Heart

High Blood Pressure
Diabetes can result in high blood pressure (hypertension).  High glucose levels contribute to the fatty deposits in the walls of blood vessels, causing them to harden over time. It impairs the ability of the blood vessel to function properly, leading to high blood pressure. 

Heart Attack and Stroke
The condition damages your blood vessels and the nerves that control them. As a result, diabetics are twice as likely to have a heart attack and stroke.

Circulatory Problems
Many people with diabetes also develop a condition called PAD, or Peripheral Artery Disease. This is a reduction in circulation to your limbs. It comes with complications such as skin changes, numbness of feet, neuropathy (nerve damage), nephropathy (renal impairment), foot ulcers and, if left untreated, amputation.

What can you do about diabetes?

Exercise! Get up and get going. Something you can start doing right now to better your overall health is moving. You don’t have to run a marathon, just a walk around the block will do. Then make it two blocks tomorrow. Small changes done consistently compound into big results.

The same goes for your diet. It’s hard to quit a poor eating habit overnight. Start by planning out healthy breakfasts for a week. Homemade oatmeal is a heart-healthy option that can be dressed up differently each day. Rather than adding processed sugar, try fruit, seeds or nuts.*

We see many patients afflicted by the disease, and unsure of how to go about managing it. To further help our patients manage their diabetes and protect their hearts from repercussions, we will be offering a wellness program in early 2019. If you are not on our newsletter and would like to get informative updates once a month, visit facebook.com/northsuffolkcardiology and direct message us your email address to be added. You may also get more information by calling our friendly staff at 631.203.8863.

*If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, it is important to consult your physician before making any dietary or lifestyle changes.

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