Lifestyle modifications can help protect your heart and manage type 2 diabetes.

Lifestyle modifications can help protect your heart and manage type 2 diabetes.

Let’s have a heart to heart about the link between Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular risk

November is Diabetes Awareness Month. Take these steps to manage your risk.

Disclosure: Sponsored by two of Canada’s leading research-based pharmaceutical companies

For the over 3.5 million Canadians living with type 2 diabetes, Diabetes Awareness Month offers a timely opportunity to remind patients to take small steps to protect their hearts.

It’s time for a heart to heart

You may know someone who’s been struggling with type two diabetes for a while, maybe you even know someone who has lost their vision or even a lower limb. Both complications are fairly well known, but the silent and more common complication of type 2 diabetes is heart disease and it’s a serious risk. One in two people with type 2 diabetes dies due to heart disease.

“Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for people with type 2 diabetes,” says Dr. Heywood Choi, an endocrinologist from Abbotsford. “For many years we’ve had medications that effectively lower blood sugar, control blood pressure or lower cholesterol, but they didn’t demonstrate any evidence of heart protection. In the last decade, there have been great advances in medications that also reduce risk of heart attack, stroke and death from cardiovascular disease.”

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3 tips to set you on the right track:

  1. Set realistic goals for yourself: “It can be hard to change habits,” Dr. Choi says. “Be patient and remember that one small change at a time can add up to a big benefit in the long term.”
  2. Look for information: Talk to your doctor and consult a dietician and other members of your care team to find out what day-to-day changes you can make to lower your risk of heart disease.
  3. Speak from the heart: Talk openly with your doctor about what you’re being prescribed to manage your type 2 diabetes. A discussion guide can help you talk to your doctor about benefits and risks of different treatment options.

Additional lifestyle changes that can also help protect your heart:

  • Smoking: If you’re a smoker, quitting smoking is very “heart-friendly,” says Dr. Choi — and better for your overall health.
  • Fitness: Exercise recommendations vary based on everyone’s exercise capacity but aim for 30-minutes of aerobic activity at least five days a week.You may have to start slowly, with as little as five to 10 minutes of exercise per day, gradually building up to your goal.
  • Nutrition: Limit processed carbohydrates and added sugars. Avoid sugary beverages and focus on whole grains with a lower glycemic index. “There’s no single method that works for everyone, but limiting sugar and processed carbohydrates is beneficial.”

If you have type 2 diabetes, speak to your doctor about how you can protect your heart health. Together, you can come up with an achievable step-by-step plan to reduce the risk of heart disease. Visit www.myheartmatters.ca to learn more.

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