Diabetes and heart disease go hand in hand. If you have one, you're at risk to develop the other. That's because some of the main risk factors, such as poor diet, lack of exercise and age, are common for both diseases.
Fortunately, you can control your risk. Diabetes Educator Kristi Brown, R.N., MSN, from Lake Regional Education Resource Center, says the best treatment is prevention.
"Experts predict that by 2050, one third of all adults will have diabetes," she said. "The tragedy is that Type 2 diabetes is almost entirely preventable."
Brown gives the following tips to help control your risk factors for diabetes and heart disease.
Control your weight
What is the most important thing you can do right now to prevent diabetes and heart disease? Brown says lose the extra pounds.
"Eighty percent of Type 2 diabetics are overweight or obese," she said. "A healthy weight could eliminate half or more of all cases of diabetes."
An example of overweight is greater than 150 pounds for a 5′5″ woman and greater than 184 pounds for a 6′ man.
Where you carry your weight also matters. Central obesity, or a waist of more than 35 inches for a woman and more than 40 inches for a man, puts you at greater risk for developing heart disease. That's because abdominal fat can increase the production of LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, that can build up in blood vessels throughout time.
Maintaining a healthy weight includes a healthy diet. Brown says this means limiting your sugar intake, especially sugar-sweetened drinks.
"Studies show that individuals who consume the most sugary drinks, typically one to two servings a day, had a 26 percent higher risk of diabetes than those who consume the least, less than one serving a month," Brown said.
How you exercise matters
Brown also says strength training two to three times a week can decrease the risk of diabetes.
"We all have a decline in muscle mass after age 30," she said. "Less muscle may increase the risk of diabetes because muscle is where the body sends most of its glucose to be burned or stored. By increasing your muscle mass, you are increasing the amount of tissue that can use glucose."
For good cardiac health, she also encourages at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise or brisk walking every day.
"Take a family walk after dinner or a make it a chance to catch up with a friend," Brown said. "If you just get out the front door, 30 minutes will pass by quicker than you think."
Need more help?
Page 2 of 2 - For more tips and treatment options, ask your doctor for a referral to Lake Regional's diabetes education program. Diabetes self-management education has been shown to improve quality of life, reduce medication costs, decrease lower-extremity amputations and reduce emergency room visits and hospitalizations.
Diabetes educators can help you understand your disease and help assess areas you can work on to improve overall health.
Lake Regional's diabetes education program, recognized by the American Diabetes Association, helps patients understand the disease and medications, plan healthy meals, be more active, manage stress and cope with the daily tasks of living with diabetes. For more information, visit lakeregional.com/Services and click "Diabetes Education," or call 573-348-8222.