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Diabetes mellitus is a condition that causes blood sugar levels in the body to rise. Untreated diabetes can lead to heart disease. The good news is that there are ways to self-manage diabetes to reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
Understand Blood Glucose
The first step to managing your blood sugar is understanding what causes blood sugar levels to increase. The two main “players” that control blood sugar levels are glucose and insulin.
- Glucose: The carbohydrates you eat and drink are digested, turned into glucose (sugar), and enter the bloodstream.
- Insulin: Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that tells the body’s cells to remove glucose from the blood and lower blood sugar levels.
In type 2 diabetes, glucose stays in the blood instead of going into cells because:
- The body develops “insulin resistance” and can’t use the insulin it makes efficiently.
- The pancreas is not producing enough insulin.
The result can be a high blood glucose level.
Monitor Blood Glucose Levels
If you have diabetes, you will need to regularly check your blood sugar level. Health care providers can also take blood glucose readings and provide recommendations. It is important to know what those levels mean. Your fasting blood glucose is the level when you have not yet eaten. This level shows how well the cells of your body remove glucose from the blood.
Fasting Blood Glucose Level
- Lower than 100 mg/dl: Normal – This is a healthy range.
- 100 to 125 mg/dl: Prediabetes (Impaired Fasting Glucose) – You are at an increased risk of developing diabetes.
- 126 mg/dl or higher: Diabetes Mellitus (type 2)– You are at an increased risk of heart disease or stroke.
Tips for Success
The American Heart Association offers the following tips to help you successfully manage your blood sugar levels.
- Eat smart: Eat a diet that includes a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, lean proteins, and fish. Also, limit sweetened drinks, added sugars, fatty foods, processed meats, and sodium.
- Move more: Physical activity can lower your risk of developing diabetes. It can also help you manage the disease if you already have it.
- Manage weight: Try to maintain a healthy weight to help prevent, delay or manage diabetes.
- Don’t smoke: Smoking, vaping, or using tobacco can make prediabetes and diabetes harder to manage. These unhealthy habits can also increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, many cancers, and other chronic diseases.
Making a few changes to your lifestyle and diet can manage your blood sugar and reduce your risk of developing heart disease.