If you’re living with type 2 diabetes, you’re at risk for more than just nerve pain, kidney issues and poor wound healing. In fact, according to a brand-new cross-sectional study, the largest risk you face due to your blood sugar problems could be to your life itself.
In fact, if you have type 2 diabetes, a fatal heart attack or stroke could be just around the corner…
Diabetes, heart and blood vessel disease
You see, while most people that have diabetes (and their doctors) focus on their blood sugar itself, new research published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology points out that preventing heart attacks and strokes in type 2 diabetes patients should be an urgent priority.
The study on which the research is based followed nearly 375,000 people with blood sugar problems and is a real eye-opener.
The investigators calculated the likelihood of each participant having a fatal heart attack or stroke within 10 years using categories set up for diabetes and cardiovascular disease:
- Very high risk (above 10 percent)
- High risk (between 5 and 10 percent)
- Moderate risk (below 5 percent)
And the results showed that a whopping 93 percent of type 2 diabetic patients are at high to very high risk of a fatal event.
Your risk level
Very high-risk level patients included ones with:
- Established cardiovascular disease
- Prior heart attack or stroke
- Other conditions like kidney impairment
- Or at least three cardiovascular risk factors (including older age, high blood pressure, high serum cholesterol, smoking or obesity)
So if you have diabetes, along with any of the above, you could be considered high risk as well.
And it’s probably not a surprise that the research showed that more men than women fell into this category.
Frighteningly, just 7 percent of type 2 diabetics were found to have only a moderate risk — less than 5 percent — of having a heart attack or stroke over the next decade of their lives.
“The most striking result of our study was that the vast majority of patients (93%) had a high or very high risk of fatal events within a decade. Half of the patients in the very high-risk group had no history of heart disease, meaning they would not be receiving medications to prevent heart attacks and strokes,” said study author Dr. Manel Mata-Cases, a general practitioner for the Catalan Institute of Health.
Healthy behaviors and lifestyle changes for patients with diabetes
So if you have type 2 diabetes and want to save your heart and your life, the researchers say that the key is implementing proven lifestyle changes now, rather than waiting for more damage to accumulate.
#1 — Quit smoking
Research shows that within the first year of kicking the habit, the risk of heart attack or stroke is slashed in half in otherwise healthy people. And after three years, that risk is almost as low as that of someone who never picked up a cigarette.
The CDC also points out that giving up smoking improves your body’s ability to use insulin, which helps you better manage your blood sugar.
#2 — Maintain a healthy weight
Losing weight can help you restore your blood sugar to a normal level, while also lowering your heart disease risk since carrying too many pounds can raise your blood pressure and with it your risk of heart attack and stroke.
For weight loss tips to send your type 2 diabetes into remission and keep your heart healthy, check out this advice from my colleague Jenny Smiechowski.
#3 — Go Mediterranean
Adopting a Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil and/or nuts is also a healthy step for diabetics who want to keep their ticker ticking.
To go Mediterranean stick with foods like:
A traditional Mediterranean diet is principally composed of:
- Oily fish
- Chicken and other poultry
- Plenty of fresh fruit and veggies
- Fresh bread
- Olive oil
And avoid processed foods that can spike your blood sugar, leading to blood vessel damage.
#4 — Avoid alcohol
Drinking too much alcohol can dramatically raise your risk of both heart attack and stroke. And over time, drinking can reduce the effectiveness of insulin, causing your blood sugar to rise even further.
Limit or completely avoid alcohol to guard your blood sugar levels and your heart.
#5 — Get your exercise
According to Dr. I-Min Lee, an epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, exercise helps your heart and blood sugar, whether or not you lose weight.
“Exercise makes the heart less prone to arrhythmias, and it affects the sympathetic nervous system, which brings down your heart rate and allows your heart to work more efficiently,” Dr. Lee says. “Exercise also lowers blood pressure and improves your lipid profile and glucose processing, even if you don’t lose weight.”
Shoot for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.
Remember, healthy blood sugar and a healthy heart go hand in hand. If you have type 2 diabetes, use the tips above to protect yourself from a fatal heart attack or stroke starting now.
Editor’s note: Did you know that a study published by U.S. researchers in the journal Open Heart suggests that sugar is worse than salt for raising blood pressure levels and heart disease risk? It’s shocking, but true! Click here to learn more about the blood pressure hoax that’s putting your heart, health and life at risk!
Mediterranean Diet — Diabetes.co.uk
Type 2 diabetes — Mayo Clinic
Why It Is Important to Quit Smoking If You Have Heart Failure — Beth Israel Lahey Health Winchester Hospital
Smoking and Diabetes — CDC
Exercise helps the heart even if it doesn’t cause weight loss — Harvard Health
Alcohol and Heart Health: Separating Fact from Fiction — Johns Hopkins
Does alcohol affect blood sugar levels in diabetes? — MedicalNewsToday
Losing Weight Can Have Big Impact on Those with Diabetes — Mayo Clinic
From Anorexia to Obesity: How Weight Affects Your Heart — Cleveland Clinic