After his 50th birthday Mr. Lin was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. According to his doctor, adults with diabetes are 2 to 4 times more likely to have heart disease. Mr. Lin is concerned because diabetes runs in his family and both parents died from heart disease. He wants to better understand diabetes and how to decrease his risk of heart disease. Let’s explain:
Diabetes is the inability of the body’s cells to take up glucose from the bloodstream. If cells cannot take up glucose, the level of glucose in the blood rises. Cells use glucose for energy and are stimulated to take up glucose by the hormone, insulin. Insulin is secreted into the bloodstream by the pancreas in response to rising blood glucose levels. Blood glucose levels rise as carbohydrates are digested after eating.
Diabetes results when either the pancreas stops producing insulin or cells no longer respond to insulin. Whatever the cause, both situations cause blood glucose levels to rise. The goal of living with diabetes is to control blood glucose levels, which is measured by A1C. Blood glucose levels may be controlled through diet, exercise or by taking the hormone, insulin.
Being aware of what you eat can help you regulate your blood glucose, cholesterol and lipid levels. This is important because people with diabetes often have unhealthy cholesterol levels, which contribute to the body’s inability to respond to insulin. By improving your cholesterol levels and losing weight you may improve your body’s response to insulin.
Cholesterol levels may be changed by limiting your fat consumption and eating a diet rich in vegetables. For blood glucose levels, carbohydrate intake is monitored. These changes may enable you to change your cholesterol and triglyceride levels to the following balance of cholesterol: LDL (“bad”) less than 100 mg/dl, high levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol and triglycerides below 250 mg/dl.
Changing your diet may also help you to lose weight. Weight loss is often easier with exercise.
Exercise can help reduce stress, which can decrease blood pressure and increase your sensitivity to insulin. The National Diabetes Education Program recommends 30 to 60 minutes exercise each day.
Insulin injections replace the insulin not produced or responded to by your body.
Integrate as many of these changes into your life as possible. Find support through diabetes associations or by asking your doctor.
- Learn more about Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes
- Learn more about the Link Between Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease
- Learn more about Losing Weight
- Find diabetes support groups and educational materials