The Connection Between Heart Disease and Other Metabolic Diseases
February 15, 2019
February is American Heart Month – a time when we raise awareness about the importance of heart health to avoid the risks associated with cardiovascular disease. Most of us have at least some idea about how to take care of our heart, e.g., eat right, exercise regularly, don’t smoke, etc. But many people don’t realize that one of the biggest enemies to heart health begins in a completely different system of the body – namely, the metabolic system, the process by which your body converts nutrients into energy.
Metabolic disorders like type-2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance can significantly increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attack. In fact, the American Heart Association lists diabetes as only one of seven controllable risk factors for heart attack, along with poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. But this list doesn’t tell the whole story. The fact is, diabetes and other metabolic disorders can actually produce three of the seven heart attack risk factors – obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. In other words, if you have diabetes, you’re probably also experiencing hypertension, elevated cholesterol and weight gain – all of which multiply your risk of heart disease substantially.
A Look at the Numbers
The science behind the connection between heart and metabolic diseases is both indisputable and sobering. Consider the following:
- Sixty-eight percent of adults with diabetes aged 65 or older will die of cardiovascular disease, not directly from the diabetes itself.
- Adults with diabetes are 2-4 times more likely to die from heart disease than non-diabetic adults.
- People with diabetes who experience a heart attack are more likely to die from it.
- Metabolic syndrome, an insulin resistance issue that is a precursor to diabetes, affects 23 percent of adults.
- About one-half of men with metabolic syndrome will develop diabetes; about one-third will develop cardiovascular disease. Risks are also elevated in females.
Why Do Metabolic Disorders Increase the Risk of Heart Disease?
The primary culprit here is elevated glucose in the blood, i.e., blood sugar. Metabolic disorders affect the production of insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar in the body. Over time, high blood sugar can cause damage to blood vessels and nerves. It can also result in increased triglycerides, or fats, in the blood stream, which can harden and thicken arteries and prohibit blood flow. Consequently, this can cause undue stress on the heart as well as possible blockages.
How You Can Reduce Your Risk
The good news is that metabolic disorders can be treated, and in many cases even reversed – provided they have not progressed to the diabetes stage. Some things you can do to lower your risks:
- Eat a heart-healthy diet. Consult with a nutritionist for a personalized diet plan that optimizes your blood sugar levels.
- Exercise. Aerobic exercise of 30 minutes a day (even in three 10-minute intervals) can improve insulin levels.
- Lose weight. A weight loss of even 5-10 percent of your body weight can go a long way toward improving metabolic and heart health.
- Watch your numbers. Get regular checkups to monitor the following numbers:
- Blood pressure—optimally 120/80 or lower
- Triglycerides—optimally 150 or lower
- LDL cholesterol—optimally 100 or lower
- Fasting glucose levels – optimally 100 or lower
If any of these numbers are elevated, talk with your doctor to discuss strategies for getting them back to safe levels.
All told, your best pathway to heart health is a whole-person approach – watching not just your heart rate, blood pressure and cholesterol, but also your weight, diet and glucose levels to make sure your metabolism stays on track. If you have any questions, talk to your healthcare professional this month to learn more. If you don’t have a primary healthcare provider, visit www.huronregional.org/find-a-doc.
Source: American Heart Association
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