Diabetes and Your Heart: A Life or Death Affair

By on January 1, 2013

By Katie Brind’Amour –

The verdict is in. Diabetes is as much of a risk factor for death from a stroke or heart attack as pre-existing cardiovascular disease. Over 9,200 women aged 68 and over are the proof researchers needed to draw the connection: Type 2 diabetes puts you at just as much risk of dying of cardiovascular disease (CVD) as if you were a non-diabetic woman with a history of CVD.

Unfortunately, the statistics are against older women in a number of ways. Firstly, senior citizens (65+) are much more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than younger adults. Secondly, individuals with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing CVD. Thirdly, and most depressingly, CVD is the leading killer of elderly women (and men).

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Luckily, all hope is not lost. Both Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease are largely preventable. This means that in most cases, it is up to you whether you develop these conditions in your later years. With long-term lifestyle changes, you can dramatically reduce the likelihood of developing either condition. Finally, some good news!

Prevent Cardiovascular Disease and Type 2 Diabetes

You can change your health future. Even if you are already diabetic, remember that there is still the opportunity to avoid the damaging effects of your condition and protect your heart from damage. Women over the age of 50 still have the power to take control of their lifestyles, and the results can be swift in coming.

Here’s what to do to slash your risk of Type 2 diabetes, diabetes complications, heart disease, stroke, heart attack, and early death:

Exercise. Seriously, this is the single best thing you can do to protect your health. If you are a stranger to the treadmill or your skin hasn’t touched pool water in years, just start slowly. Gradually build up to about 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least five days each week. Think of activities you enjoy, and step up the volume on things like household chores to burn extra energy. Newbies to the world of physical activity may enjoy water aerobics, power walking, ballroom dancing, stationary or outdoor biking, yoga, and group fitness classes.

Lose weight. Although this may come naturally as a result of your newfound love of exercise, it is an important goal in itself. Women who lose even a few extra pounds—particularly around the waist—see a dramatic improvement in cardiovascular health. Those at risk of diabetes also see an improvement in blood glucose control, and overall risk for both diseases drops dramatically. Aim to lose up to 10% of your bodyweight if you are overweight or obese.

Eat well. A healthy diet is an essential portion of a prevention plan. No matter how many times we are all told to exercise and eat right, the motivation seems to falter for many of us after only a few days. Make a commitment to your heart, your health, and your happiness by maintaining a balanced diet. Cut down on processed foods, sweets (including sugary drinks), and fattening foods. Opt instead for a plate half-filled with vegetables and half-filled with lean protein (think skinless chicken or fish) and complex carbs (like whole grain pasta or brown rice). The more your diet reflects a balanced and calorie-controlled menu, the less likely you are to succumb to diabetes and plaque in the arteries.

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Take control of your life by taking control of your risk for diabetes and heart disease. No one wants to have their daily bad diet or exercise decisions lead to a retirement filled with diabetes drugs, carb counting, and post-stroke physical therapy. Make it happen, and know that your risk will diminish. Before you know it, your Doc will be smiling at your annual check-ups and calling you “healthy as a horse”—the only time you should feel flattered for being compared to a barn animal!

About Katie BrindAmour

Katie Brind'Amour, MS, is a Certified Health Education Specialist and wannabe wine aficionado. She enjoys blogging for WomensHealthcareTopics.com and is painstakingly chipping away at her PhD in Health Services Management and Policy. She's looking forward to a an exciting and healthier 2013 for herself and her loved ones!

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Diabetes and Your Heart: A Life or Death Affair