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Have Diabetes? Watch Your Heart

Did you know that having type 2 diabetes also increases your risk of developing heart disease? Sometimes up to 5 times or more? Find out how to reduce your risk in the steps outlined below.
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Did you know that having diabetes is a risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease?

According to a new study by the American Diabetes Association, women with diabetes have a 5 times greater risk for developing CVD than men with diabetes. According to the Cleveland Clinic, about 20 percent of all women over the age of 20 have type 2 diabetes. This means that 20 percent of all women have a high likelihood of developing heart disease- something that usually is less of a risk for women.

A new 2013 study from the American Diabetes Association indicates that women with diabetes are as at-risk for developing heart disease as men of any age. The study researchers stated that the link between an increase for heart disease among men with diabetes was well established. However, it was not known that women lose their gender advantage and reduction in risk when they also have diabetes.

The Impact for Women

Women were previously thought to have less risk for getting heart disease in general. However, the American Diabetes Association study and a study conducted by the University of Minnesota showed that women with diabetes have a 50 percent higher risk for getting fatal heart disease than men with diabetes. Other studies have shown similar results, although these studies did not look at a woman’s age.

The new study divided the women into three groups usingGeneSTAR, NHANES III Mortality Follow-Up Study, and the Multiethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), to determine if risk was increased no matter what the age of the women. Study Details The study looked at over 11,000 men and women younger than 60 years of age. The study took into account any family history or other factors that could increase their risk for heart disease and eliminated those factors from the study. This enabled the researchers to look at a woman’s risk based on age alone. Without diabetes, a woman’s risk for getting CAD was between .44 and 4.27 percent. Men without diabetes had a risk between .88 and 11.22 percent. However, women with diabetes had a risk range between 2.37 and 17.65. Men with diabetes had a risk range between 1.82 and 12.86 percent- significantly lower than women.

The study found that women’s risk for heart disease was approximately 4 to 5 times higher than that of men with diabetes. The researchers determined that the best way to keep women with diabetes safe was to monitor them closely for signs of heart disease. Researchers suggest that taking actions to keep blood pressure low, cholesterol low, and blood glucose levels low is the best way to ensure women stay healthy with diabetes.

Why Are Women More At Risk?

According to the study, there is no clear reason why women with type 2 diabetes are more at risk for heart disease than men. However, the same risk factors associated with men and their increased risk for heart disease apply. Typically, factors like obesity, high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels, high blood sugar, and lack of physical activity are contributing factors to heart disease. For both men and women, these same factors lead to type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes-Related CVD Risk Factors
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar
  • Lack of physical activity
  • High triglyceride levels

Stop Diabetes in Its Tracks

Luckily, type 2 diabetes is completely avoidable, and even reversible. In fact, with the right lifestyle changes, it is possible to prevent both diabetes and CVD. According to the National Diabetes Education Program, a three-pronged approach is necessary to stop diabetes from causing heart disease. This approach includes controlling blood glucose levels, controlling cholesterol, and controlling blood pressure.

Control Blood Glucose Levels

Reader’s Digest lists several supplements that are scientifically proven to reduce blood glucose levels and boosting insulin sensitivity. These supplements include:

Gymnema Sylvestre: Gymnema sylvestre is used to lower blood sugar levels by reducing the ability to detect sweetness. The supplement boosts the activity of enzymes that use glucose and boost insulin production.

Bitter Melon: Bitter melon helps cells used glucose more effectively and even blocks sugar absorption in the intestines. One study gave men and women bitter melon supplements for three months. While taking the supplement, the participants showed lower blood glucose levels.

Magnesium: Magnesium is important for nearly all diseases and for promoting overall health. Many people with diabetes are magnesium-deficient. Magnesium can improve insulin function and lower blood sugar levels. Check for a deficiency before supplementing; excessive magnesium levels can also be harmful.

Prickly Pear Cactus: Cactus fruit may help lower blood glucose levels. Take about ½ a cup of cooked cactus per day, or look for it in powdered form.

Chromium: Chronium enhances the natural action of insulin and metabolic function. For individuals deficient in chromium, it also lowers blood sugar levels.

Fenugreek: Fenugreek seeds have many benefits, including lowering blood sugar, increasing insulin sensitivity, and reducing cholesterol. The seeds contain an amino acid that boosts the release of insulin and regulates blood sugar. 25 mg daily can help prevent post-meal blood sugar spikes.

Ginseng: Ginseng not only boosts the immune system, but it also improves a cell’s ability to use glucose. Researchers at the University of Toronto have demonstrated that supplementing with ginseng can lower blood glucose levels by up to 20 percent.

Control Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a common side effect of diabetes that can also lead to an increased risk for heart disease. Controlling blood pressure is easier when the following steps are followed:

Maintain healthy weight: Men and women who have a waist size larger than 40 inches (men) or 35 inches (women), are more likely to have high blood pressure. A healthy weight will help keep high blood pressure at bay.

Exercise: Daily exercise can help keep the heart pumping and blood pressure regulated. Exercising at least 4 times a week can lower blood pressure within just a few weeks. Limit alcohol: Excessive alcohol levels can lead to high blood pressure. Women should limit their intake to one drink per day, and men should limit their intake to two drinks per day.

Don’t smoke: Smoking not only increases blood pressure, but it also increases the risk of getting diabetes. Secondhand smoke can also raise blood pressure.

Reduce stress: Stress is an easy way to raise blood pressure rapidly. Stress-coping methods, like Yoga, stretching, deep-breathing, and massage, can help reduce your stress levels and lower blood pressure.

Control Cholesterol

According to Web MD, there are several supplements that are known to help reduce total cholesterol levels and specifically lower triglyceride levels that lead to an increase in “bad” cholesterol (small particle LDL). The following foods are able to help control cholesterol levels naturally:

Green tea extract: The University of Maryland states that green tea lowers cholesterol levels in men. Men who drink green tea have lower overall cholesterol levels than men who do not drink green tea. The University of Maryland suggests that the polyphenols in green tea block cholesterol from absorbing into the walls of the arteries (where it typically causes problems by oxidizing).

Oat bran: A 2013 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition fed oat cereal daily to men with high cholesterol levels. After two weeks, the men’s cholesterol levels were lowered by 5.4 percent.

Barley: A 1994 study conducted by Texas A&M University indicated that supplementing with barley and barley oil significantly reduced cholesterol levels in study participants. After 30 days of supplementing with barley flour and barley oil, participants showed an average reduction in cholesterol levels by 9.2 percent.

Artichoke extract: A 2008 study from The University of Reading showed that supplementing with 1280 mg of artichoke extract for 12 weeks lowered the cholesterol levels of participants by an average of 4.2 percent. Participants taking placebos saw an increase in cholesterol levels by 1.9 percent.

Other Ways to Reduce Diabetes Symptoms

If you have diabetes, you should also employ the following strategies to reduce your symptoms and lower your risk for developing heart disease. Women especially, should employ these steps to stay healthy and prevent CVD. Men and women alike can lower their risk for developing heart disease due to type 2 diabetes by managing the disease with these methods:

Eat heart-healthy foods: Heart healthy foods will help you maintain a healthy weight, control blood sugar, prevent high blood pressure, and lower your cholesterol levels. 

Heart Healthy Foods
  • Salmon
  • Flaxseed
  • Oats
  • Black beans
  • Almonds
  • Red wine
  • Walnuts
  • Tuna
  • Brown rice
  • Tomatoes
  • Green tea
  • Dark chocolate
  • Squash
  • Asparagus

Exercise: Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day, 4 to 5 times a week will help you maintain a healthy weight, reduce diabetes symptoms, and prevent heart disease.

Reduce sugar: Excessive levels of sugar can upset the balance of insulin in your body. Control the production of insulin by reducing the amount of sugar in your diet. Artificial sugars may also be bad for individuals with diabetes, according to a 2010 study conducted by Yale University. According to the study, artificial sweeteners cause weight gain by encouraging the craving for sugary substances, and give the body a sugar dependence- which can be devastating for individuals with diabetes.

Reduce processed foods: Processed foods are high in sugar and chemical additives that destroy normal blood glucose levels and interfere with insulin regulation. Avoid processed foods when possible to prevent diabetes symptoms.

Stop smoking: Smoking is particularly bad if you have diabetes for both men and women. According to Time Magazine, smoking can raise blood sugar levels, leading to complications that could also lead to heart disease. In fact, a study from California State Polytechnic University in 2011 showed that smoking raises Hemoglobin A1c levels in the blood by 34 percent. Hemoglobin A1c levels are an indicator of current blood sugar levels.

Preventing Heart Disease by Controlling Diabetes

When you control your type 2 diabetes symptoms, you automatically lower your risk for developing heart disease. This is important for both men and women, who are naturally at higher risk for developing heart disease. Women especially, should take steps to manage their diabetes symptoms to avoid the increased risk for getting heart disease- which is even higher for women with diabetes than for men with diabetes. By controlling blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure, you will not only reduce your chances of getting heart disease, but you might even eliminate your diabetes symptoms altogether. 

Sources


http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2013/10/22/dc13-1755.abstract

http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/100/10/1134.full

http://www.rd.com/content/the-best-herbs-and-supplements-for-diabetes/

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