Did you know that according to the American Diabetes Association, around two-thirds of people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke? That’s why it’s so important to lower the risk factors for these conditions as much as possible.
The American Heart Association recognizes that there are many factors we can’t control when it comes to the risk of heart disease: getting older, heredity and race, and even gender.i However, there are many things we can do to protect the health of our heart.
Quitting smoking is one of the most important measures people can take, since smokers have 2-4 times the risk than nonsmokers of developing heart disease. Adding physical activity not only keeps the heart in shape, but also benefits blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. Losing weight and excess body fat is another effective way to guard against heart disease and stroke. Excess abdominal fat is a particular risk factor for heart disease, so keeping the waist to 35″ or under for women and 40″ or under for men is widely recommended. Along with losing weight, lowering blood cholesterol levels and keeping blood sugar levels under control are important for preventing heart problems.
For people with diabetes, striking a balance between lowering blood sugar levels and controlling heart-risk factors (such as high blood pressure and cholesterol) may be more important than previously thought. A recent study of 10,000 people with Type 2 diabetes who also had a high risk of heart disease was sponsored in part by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The scientists leading this study found that for these patients, lowering the blood sugar levels too much actually led to an increase in the death-rate. Reducing patients’ blood sugar levels closer to normal raised their risk of death over patients whose blood sugar levels were slightly above what was previously considered to be optimal.
These results go against decades of research that recommends bringing blood sugar levels down to near-normal levels as much as possible. For now, the authors of study are unable to pinpoint why these results occurred, so further research is ongoing. Doctors still agree, however, that the overall effect of lowering blood sugar produces greater benefits than not. Speak with your doctor for more information on how diabetes, heart disease, and stroke are related, and for the best treatment options for you.