World Diabetes Day 2020: Less salt intake, exercising may help diabetics keep their heart healthy
A 2010 study suggests that cardiovascular complications are the major cause of death among 70 percent of patients with Type 2 diabetes
World Diabetes Day is observed every year on 14 November with the target of raising awareness about how to prevent, treat and manage this chronic condition globally. The Lancet Commission of Diabetes’ recent report reveals that there are currently 463 million people in the world suffering from diabetes. Most of this huge number of diabetes patients (about 80 percent according to the report) come from low- and middle-income nations like India.
According to data provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2018, 72 million people in India suffer from diabetes — numbers that are highly likely to have increased by 2020 - and about 98 million people in the country are estimated to have diabetes by 2030. This rise in diabetes prevalence is concerning because this disease, like all other chronic diseases, can lead to severe and debilitating complications.
Diabetes and cardiovascular disease
The risk of damage to major organs and organ systems is quite high if you have diabetes. In fact, a 2010 study published in Diabetes Care suggests that cardiovascular complications are the major cause of death among 70 percent of patients with Type 2 diabetes. The study goes on to suggest that if the burden of diabetes is not controlled in time, it can lead to an epidemic of diabetes-related cardiovascular disease.
It is, therefore, vital for diabetes patients to control their disease with the proper guidance of a doctor. Equally important is keeping a close eye on symptoms like breathlessness, constant fatigue and lethargy, uncontrollable blood glucose levels, and puffiness in the ankles, legs, and abdomen. Such symptoms are associated with a high risk of cardiovascular disease and if they do arise, you should consult a doctor immediately.
How to manage diabetes better
Here are some small steps to manage diabetes and keep your heart healthy:
1. Know your disease
It is of utmost importance to understand your disease, what the common symptoms are and the risk factors involved. Hence, it's advisable to ask your doctor a series of questions, which will then help you make an informed decision and accordingly follow precautionary measures. The right guidance from your doctor and comprehensive information about diabetes and your individual needs, along with timely medication, can help you manage diabetes better and avoid harm to your heart.
2. Physical activity is vital
It is a known fact that there is no managing diabetes without physical activity. Exercise is said to be helpful for the entire body but especially the heart muscles. Not only does it regulate blood flow and body weight but it also helps control blood pressure. Patients can include light exercises, meditation and moderate brisk walk into their routine, depending on individual tolerance. However, patients are first advised to consult their doctor before starting any exercise routine, to ensure it is safe for their health.
3. Maintain a healthy diet
A healthy diet is extremely important to manage most diseases. Diabetes patients are advised to eat small meals at frequent intervals for better digestion. Doing so also helps one keep their body and heart healthy by not putting extra strain on them. The following are some foods which should be included in your diet:
- Fresh fruit and veggies, especially non-starchy ones like leafy greens
- Unsaturated fat from fish, grains and vegetable oils
- Low-fat dairy
Lastly, cut out sugary drinks, sodium, trans, and saturated fat and limit junk food.
4. Avoid smoking and alcohol consumption
Diabetes as well as heart patients should avoid smoking as it may damage the blood vessels and further weaken the heart muscle. Intake of alcohol should also be avoided as it further results in deterioration of heart function, especially in the left ventricle.
5. Reducing salt intake
Patients are also asked to consume less salt (less than 3g daily) as it not only increases blood pressure but the sodium in salt causes the body to retain water as well. Higher blood pressure levels can lead to diabetes complications and damage the heart. To control salt intake, one can add minimal salt in their home-cooked food and replace it with spices and herbs to keep the food flavourful.
This article was written by Dr Sundeep Mishra, Professor of Cardiology, AIIMS.
For more information, read our article on Diabetes.
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