10 Ways to Love Your Heart

Here are some things you can do to live healthfully, take care of your diabetes, and protect your heart and other body parts.

  1.  Exercise more.  You don’t have to run 5 miles daily to do your body a favor.  Just taking more steps can have a benefit.  “The muscles are involved in the utilization of glucose, so regular moderate exercise is critical to individuals with diabetes in terms of treating their diabetes and cardiovascular risk.  It’s important to build some regular activity into your life,” says Laurence Sperling, MD, FACC, FACP, FAHA, professor of medicine in cardiology and director of the Emory Heart Disease Prevention  Center in Atlanta.
  2.  Sit Less.  Many of us spend our days in a seated position-whether at work, driving, watching TV.  The American Diabetes Association recommends that you get up and move around every 30 minutes.
  3.  Manage weight.  Losing weight, if needed, and maintaining a healthy weight are important.  When losing weight, don’t get fixated on an ideal number.  “You can make significant gains in health and the treatment of diabetes, and other risk factors related to diabetes, with very modest weight loss,” says Sperling.  Focus on attainable goals, and weigh yourself weekly.  Losing just 10 to 15 pounds can make a big difference.  Talk to your doctor about specific steps you can take to start losing weight.
  4. Take medication.  Diabetes, blood pressure, and cholesterol meds will help manage risk factors for CVD.  It’s important to take your medication as directed by your doctor.  So you don’t forget, take it at the same time every day, set an alarm, or use a pill box as reminders.
  5.  Eat well.  A quick way to plan good-for-you meals is to “create your plate” with the right portions (how much you eat) of healthy foods.  Fill 1/2 of your plate with nonstarchy vegetables.  Fill 1/4 of your plate with protein.  Fill 1/4 of your plate with carbohydrate foods like whole grains, starchy vegetables, fruit, or yogurt.  *Remember that milk also contains carbohydrate and might impact what goes in this section.  Drink water or a no-calorie beverage.
  6.   Manage stress.  Exercise, meditation, relaxation, music, and art help with stress management and heart health. “Stress releases hormones in our body, and many of these hormones raise our blood sugar and make it harder for our diabetes to get under good control,” says Sperling.  And stress impacts the blood vessels, making it harder for them to relax, which increases the risk of heart disease.  “Really try to ask yourself: What are some of things I can do to diffuse stress in my life?” he says.
  7.  Follow up with your care team.  You are the most important member of your diabetes care team, but remember to tell your doctor and other health care professionals how you’re doing.  Make sure to mention if you have any of the symptoms of CVD or if any other health problems come up.
  8.   Sleep better.  Poor sleep can increase stress hormones.  “six to eight hours is probably the ideal amount of sleep for most adults,” says Sperling.  One thing that can make getting a good night’s sleep difficult for people with diabetes is sleep apnea, a condition many people don’t even know they have.  Symptoms include loud snoring, spells where you stop breathing at night, and excessive sleepiness during the day.  Talk with your doctor if you experience any of these.  It could be affecting your glucose levels and upping your risk for high blood pressure and heart disease.
  9.  Go to a diabetes education class.  Learning how to live well with diabetes is best done by taking part in an education class or program.  Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support (DSMES) services are the formal name for these programs and, with a referral from your doctor, are often covered by insurance, especially when you are first diagnosed.  DSMES answers your questions about diabetes and helps you gain knowledge, skills, and confidence in taking care of your health.  DSMES is also useful when your body or situation changes over time, helping you live a long and healthy life.
  10.   Know your numbers.  Keep track of your health stats using a chart or log, says Sperling.  Check your blood pressure and blood glucose as directed, and be aware of your most current blood test results, including A1C and cholesterol.     References:  Diabetes Forecast Magazine/ November, December 2017 Issue