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Posted at: Jun 22, 2019, 11:47 AM; last updated: Jun 22, 2019, 11:47 AM (IST)

Control blood sugar for healthy heart

People with diabetes tend to develop heart disease at a younger age than those without this ailment

Dr RN Kalra

Diabetes has become a major health problem worldwide, almost an epidemic. A major reason behind the sudden increase of diabetes is the changes in our diet and lifestyle. Apart from the direct problems and risks posed by diabetes, there are many associated complications that are the indirect outcome of diabetes. It is a big trigger for cardiovascular disorders including heart attacks. 

India has a huge burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) with diabetes and hypertension being the major medical problems. According to a NATHEALTH Report, NCDs will cost India $ 6 trillion by 2030. 

A diabetic person is more prone to develop a heart disease or get a heart attack or stroke, as diabetes causes damage to blood vessels. Diabetics are unable to process insulin properly, a hormone made by the pancreas that allows the body to use glucose from carbohydrates for energy or to store glucose for future use. Insulin helps keep the blood sugar level from getting too high (hyperglycemia) or too low (hypoglycemia). 

If there is little or no insulin being produced or if the body becomes resistant to insulin, the glucose stays in the bloodstream and can’t move across to the body’s cells.

Over time, high blood glucose levels can damage blood vessels and the nerves that control the heart and its blood vessels. If one is diabetic for a long time, he/she is at a greater risk of developing heart disease. Diabetic people tend to develop heart disease at a younger age than people without diabetes. Diabetic adults face heart disease and stroke as the most common causes of death, and also are nearly twice as likely to die from heart disease or stroke as people without diabetes.

Being overweight is directly linked to several risk factors like diabetes and high blood pressure, the main triggers for heart problems. So it is essential to maintain a healthy weight, appropriate for your age, height and gender.

Along with having a balanced nutritious diet, it is equally important to avoid a sedentary lifestyle and making physical activity like jogging, running or yoga a must part of daily routine. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Besides this, it is also advisable to get regular health check-ups done and keep an eye on the sugar levels.

For the treatment of coronary heart diseases, it is strongly recommended that all people with diabetes must have their heart disease risk factors checked as aggressively and routinely as people who have already had heart attacks. 

People with diabetes and signs of coronary heart disease are also advised to make lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, eating a healthy and balanced diet and also incorporating physical activity into their day to day activities. Some patients may also be prescribed to some kind of medication such as; ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, statins and a low dose of aspirin.


Symptoms to watchout for

A heart attack occurs when a clot prevents the blood supply to the heart. 

Here are some common symptoms among heart-disease patients although these may vary from individual to individual. 

  • Chest pain 
  • Breathing problems
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Swelling of ankles
  • Loss of consciousness
According to International Diabetes Federation Diabetes atlas, India is second among the top 10 countries in the world with 69.2 million diabetics and another 36.5 million with pre-diabetes, a high-risk condition for diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. The high prevalence of diabetes among Indians is a direct result of lifestyle changes; eating unhealthy food and being physically inactive.


Steps for a strong beat

  • Keep blood sugar as normal as possible. 
  • Control blood pressure, with medication if necessary.
  • Get cholesterol numbers under control.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Exercise regularly. 
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet such as the Mediterranean diet or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.
— The writer is cardiologist and medical director, Kalra Hospital, New Delhi

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