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bowl of berries
bowl of berries

Women: How Controlling Blood Sugar Benefits Your Heart

Controlling your blood sugar is one of the best things for women’s heart health, along with maintaining healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

women on stationary bikes

In many patients with diabetes who have no symptoms, diabetes, particularly when poorly controlled, is already harming their blood vessels and leading to hardening of the arteries, a precursor to heart disease. People may not even realize that they have diabetes until the disease progresses to the point where they have a heart attack.

That’s why it’s important to be aware of your blood glucose numbers, along with monitoring your overall weight and body fat.

Q&A: Why does my doctor measure my waist?

Abdominal girth is one of the strongest determinants of your risk for type 2 diabetes. Doctors call it central adiposity (otherwise known as belly fat), and it indicates a dangerous level of fat around your central organs.

A person may not be overweight all over, but if you have extra weight around the middle, such as a beer belly or a potbelly shape, you are at increased risk for diabetes. That’s why in addition to body-mass index (BMI), doctors recommend that patients have your waist circumference checked.

If Your Blood Sugar Is High

Losing weight is the best way to get high blood sugar under control. Food is energy, so if the calories you consume don’t get burned off, fat accumulates on your body, particularly in the abdomen, which can cause diabetes. Two effective tactics for helping lose extra pounds and prevent diabetes:

  • Limiting your carbohydrate and sugar intake.
  • Doing heart-pumping, heavy-breathing aerobic exercise.

If you’re just getting started with diet changes and exercise, work with your doctor to come up with a combined plan that’s best for your needs. Be sure to get your blood glucose levels monitored as recommended.

Treatment can bring type 2 (or adult-onset) diabetes under control before you need insulin, if it is combined with weight loss and changes in lifestyle. This is especially true in those whose glucose levels are in the mild range. Glucose levels that are above normal can be considered a wake-up call.

Women with Diabetes: Heart Disease Risk

Anyone with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes faces an elevated risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular problems, but women who are younger than 60 — a group often thought of as having a lower danger of heart problems — actually have up to four times the risk of heart disease when they have type 2 diabetes, recent Johns Hopkins research shows.

For this reason, women with high blood glucose levels should take the condition particularly seriously. Adults with poorly controlled diabetes are never too young to have a heart attack or stroke, the experts say.

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