Welcome to Diabetes Prevention Thursdays! Today, let’s talk about how to prevent heart disease when you have diabetes. Over time, diabetes can affect any part of your body. The good news is that you can prevent or delay many health complications by taking good care of yourself. That includes keeping your blood sugar levels as close to your target as possible, eating healthy, getting regular physical activity, keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol at the levels your doctor sets, taking medicines if needed, and getting regular checkups.
It sounds like a lot, but it’s worth it to improve your health and feel your best.
Did you know?
Heart disease is the leading cause of death among people with diabetes. You’re twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke as someone who doesn’t have diabetes, and it could happen at a younger age.
How can diabetes affect my heart?
Over time, high blood sugar from diabetes can damage blood vessels as well as the nerves that control your heart and blood vessels. You’re also more likely to have other conditions that raise your risk for heart disease:
- High blood pressure increases the force of blood through your arteries and can damage artery walls.
- Too much LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in your bloodstream can build up on the damaged artery walls and form plaque. Over time, plaque can cause atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and can block the arteries, stopping blood flow to the heart (heart attack) or brain (stroke).
- High triglycerides (a type of fat in your blood) and low HDL (“good”) cholesterol or high LDL cholesterol is thought to contribute to hardening of the arteries.
None of these conditions have symptoms. Your doctor can do a simple blood test to check your levels.
How can I be “heart healthy” if I have diabetes?
These lifestyle changes can help lower your risk for heart disease:
- Follow a healthy diet. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains. Eat fewer processed foods (such as chips, sweets, fast food) and avoid trans pfat. Drink more water, fewer sugary drinks, and less alcohol.
- Aim for a healthy weight. If you’re overweight, even losing a modest amount of weight can lower your triglycerides and blood sugar. Modest weight loss means 5% to 7% of body weight, just 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person.
- Get physically active. Being active makes your body more sensitive to insulin (the hormone that allows cells in your body to use blood sugar for energy), which helps manage your diabetes. Physical activity also helps control blood sugar levels and lowers your risk of heart disease and nerve damage. Try to get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking.
- Manage your ABCs:
- A: Get a regular A1C test to measure your average blood sugar over 2 to 3 months; aim to stay in your target range as much as possible.
- B: Try to keep your blood pressure below 140/90 mm Hg (or the target your doctor sets).
- C: Control your cholesterol levels.
- s: Stop smoking or don’t start.
Your doctor may also prescribe medicines that can help you manage your blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.
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I wanted to talk about this topic because it is absolutely possible to prevent and even reverse Type 2 Diabetes (but you cannot reverse Type 1). Yes, it’s possible! and emerging studies looking at lifestyle medicine and prevention support this! But I always tell my patients that you must be dedicated and diligent in adopting a healthy lifestyle to get the best results. You can create certain behaviors and practices that will not only enrich your life, but that you can pass on to your family, friends, and community, to help break the cycle of this chronic disease so that you can leave a legacy of health to your loved ones.
I use functional medicine and lifestyle medicine as the first line of treatment, before medications, to treat lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Lifestyle-related chronic diseases include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and some cancers, just to name a few. Lifestyle practices, such as eating a low glycemic, whole-food plant-based diet and regular physical activity, can help you improve your blood sugar levels, maybe reverse type 2 diabetes. In certain cases, these approaches may even outperform pharmaceutical therapy. But I always tell my patients that conventional medications may be appropriate at this time to prevent catastrophic illness, but over time, you can work to make the necessary lifestyle changes to possibly reduce and/or eliminate medications. Please remember to always consult your physician for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any decisions whatsoever.
Is Dietary Supplementation Right For You?
When it comes to managing your blood sugars (in general), pre-diabetes, and diabetes, there are many things that you can do to help control your blood sugar levels. One important aspect is diet. What you eat affects your blood sugar, so it’s important to be mindful of what goes into your body.
But it is very important to note that we are not eating the same foods we ate years ago because the soils have been depleted of critical nutrients through current industrial farming practices. And because the soil is not as good as it used to be, the food supply (grown from the depleted soil) is not as good as it used to be. For example, you are not getting the same levels of chromium and magnesium as you would have gotten 30 or even 50 years ago.
Second, much of the food has been processed and genetically altered, which can impact the inherent and unique nutritional composition that each food possess. For example, ancient einkorn wheat has less gluten, more protein, more Vitamin A, and more beta carotene, than modern genetically modified wheat.
Third, the toxic load in the environment today is much higher than 100 years ago. We can see this with global warming, toxic landfills, polluted oceans and waterways, etc. Toxicity levels interfere with nutrient assimilation and absorption not just into the foods, but into our bodies as well. We often see elevated blood sugar levels with poor nutrition and toxicity.
In addition to diet, there are dietary supplements that can have an impact on blood sugar levels. Dietary supplements for diabetes are becoming increasingly popular as people look for ways to improve their blood sugar control.
For some people, vitamin and mineral supplements offer important health benefits. Supplements are designed to fight deficiencies found in our diet and complement the food we eat regularly. Supplements are basically “helping hands” to our daily food.
If you suspect that you aren’t getting the nutrients you need, consider shifting your focus from supplements to eating better.
And if you are unable to eat better, the supplements in my Blood Sugar Support Bundle may provide the extra boost you need.
These are my favorite Diabetes Prevention Supplements to use! This Blood Sugar Support Bundle will ensure you have the intake of the important vitamins, minerals, and probiotics to decrease inflammation and boost your innate wellness day and night. Taken together, it’s a solid plan for increasing your body’s natural resiliency while encouraging healthy blood sugar levels.
For best results make sure you use these supplements with dietary changes including a whole food plant-based diet, regular exercise (at least 2-3x per week), regular sleep (8 hours per night), and intermittent fasting (at least 1-3x per week).
It’s important to note that supplements are NOT a replacement for your regular medication regimen prescribed by your doctor. However, they can be used in addition to help manage your blood sugar levels.
Supplements have the potential to interact with diabetes medications, so it’s important to speak with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen. Have you tried any dietary supplements for your diabetes? Share your experience in the comments below!
Tools For Diabetes Prevention and Monitoring
Blood Sugar Monitoring
As you know, I always stress the importance of taking control of your health. Monitoring your blood sugar levels is one of the best ways to do this. To do this, a single drop of blood is collected with disposable lancets and placed on a disposable test strip, which you insert into a home blood-sugar monitoring device, called a glucometer.
The common times for checking your blood sugar are when you first wake up (fasting), before a meal, 2 hours after a meal, and at bedtime; however, you should check your blood sugar as many times a day as your health care team suggests.
Monitoring your blood sugar level provides you and your doctors with important knowledge about how food, activity, medication, stress, and other elements might affect your blood sugar levels. This data will assist you and your doctor in developing a therapy plan that is suited to your demands.
Since weight management is very important in combatting chronic diseases such as diabetes, I recommend that you be mindful of your weight and its fluctuations, and that you monitor your weight AT LEAST on a weekly basis. I recommend a scale that includes a body composition monitor (*this scale cannot be used with a pacemaker or other implanted devices).
Physical activity (or exercise) can improve your health and reduce the risk of developing several chronic diseases like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, just to name a few. Physical activity actually improves insulin sensitivity. Physical activity can improve your mood, boost your immune system, and even help you maintain a healthy weight.
I often recommend yoga and resistance training for physical activity, but as you are aware, there are plenty of forms of “movement” that you can do! But for the basics, especially if you’re just getting started, yoga and resistance training are where I would start.
Yoga can be a great way to improve your strength and flexibility, manage your stress, improve your heart health, and lose weight! I recommend using a grounded yoga mat to connect yourself with the earth and reduce inflammation.
Resistance training is the mainstay for overall health. It not only has beneficial effects on reducing body fat, it also increases muscle size and strength. Here are some basic dumbbells/free weights that I recommend to everyone.
Remember, living a healthy lifestyle including eating a whole foods plant-based diet and regular physical activity are the best ways to prevent diabetes. Please talk with your doctor about any complementary health approaches, including supplements, you use. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.
PS. I am always asked what tools and resources I recommend to help you reach YOUR health goals. Here is the ever-growing, always updated list for you.
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