A person with diabetes cannot properly process insulin. This leads to high blood sugar levels. Over time, high blood sugar can damage blood vessels and the nerves that control your heart.
In this case, managing your diabetes to keep your heart strong becomes critical. The following tips show how maintaining healthy habits can do wonders for your heart and your diabetes.
1. Eat right
A proper diet helps keep your blood sugar levels at bay. While there is no one-size-fits-all diabetes meal plan, eating the right food can help regulate your blood sugar and protect your heart. Harvard Medical School suggests eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and vegetable oils (especially olive oil).
Experts also recommend minimizing consumption of fast food, salty or fried food, and fast-digesting carbohydrates (or those “quick energy fix” foods). In addition, cutting back on unhealthy fats will reduce the chances of clogged arteries. An example of unhealthy fat is trans-fat, which is usually found in packaged baked goods, margarine, and fried fast foods.
2. Stay active
With or without diabetes, regular exercise is one of the most important activities you can do for your health.
Physical activity improves factors linked to cardiovascular health, resulting in lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, and better blood sugar regulation. Constant movement also promotes positive physiological changes, such as enabling the heart’s arteries to dilate more readily. Moreover, avoiding long periods of inactivity reduces the risk of developing a blood clot.
3. Get enough sleep
Aside from proper diet and exercise, sleep is also essential for people living with diabetes. Experts warn that short downtimes can have long-term damaging effects. When you sleep, your blood pressure goes down, giving your heart and blood vessels some rest, which means that the lesser you sleep, the longer your blood pressure stays up during a 24-hour cycle.
During the deep, slow-wave part of your sleep cycle, the amount of sugar in your blood also drops. Limited time in this deepest stage means you don’t get that break to allow a reset. As a result, your body will have a harder time responding to your cells’ needs. In turn, your sugar levels are likely to escalate.
4. Stress less
Stress doesn’t directly cause diabetes, but it can affect your blood sugar levels. The stress hormones that your body releases make it harder for insulin to work properly. As a result, your blood sugar levels rise.
While you can’t avoid stressful situations, you can do things to make it easier to cope with them. In times of stress, it’s even more important to look after yourself. And it’s good to be aware that self-care is the first step to staying well.
Getting enough sleep, exercising, and incorporating relaxation time into your routine will help you cope better with stress. These basics are essential tips for a healthy heart.
5. Keep track of those numbers
Keeping a watch on your blood sugar levels is vital in managing your health. Knowing how certain foods affect your glucose levels can help you adjust your diet choices and medicine doses.
Even though blood sugar meters can help you track your levels, it’s still a good idea to write down the results. You can also download mobile apps that allow you to watch your blood sugar readings. This makes it easier for you to see patterns and understand how certain situations, such as eating or exercising, affect your blood sugar.
In general, people with diabetes test their blood sugar levels before breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and again at bedtime. Experts suggest checking your blood glucose levels more frequently when you’re sick, or when there have been changes in your medication doses or schedule.
You may also need to check blood sugar more often if you suddenly become more active, like after joining a Zumba session.
Maintaining healthy habits is key to better health. In this area, proper monitoring by experts is just as important. Regular check-ups help address issues before they become a major problem, avoiding further complications.
When you manage your health properly, you can be more productive while reassuring those around you that you’re taking care of yourself.
Written by Jolina D. Santos
About the Author
Dr. Jolina began her journey as a health care professional when she took her medical degree in one of the most prestigious med schools in the Philippines. With a solid foundation, the Thomasian took her residency training in internal medicine at Capitol Medical Center. Deciding her calling was to help treat people suffering from diabetes, she took her clinical fellowship at the Institute for Studies on Diabetes Foundation, Inc (ISDFI).
To further her studies, she proceeded to take her Master of Science in Diabetology at UERM-ISDFI and is currently completing her thesis. Apart from serving as a consultant for the For Your Sweetheart website, Dr. Jolina is a visiting faculty at the ISDFI and is currently practicing in Quezon City.
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