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High Blood Sugar & Insulin Levels Linked to Heart Disease

A doctor using a stethescope to listen to someone's heart

While cholesterol and saturated fat are often blamed as the cause of heart disease and heart attacks, new studies indicate high blood sugar and insulin also have a considerable impact on a person’s risk for developing heart disease. Many diabetics are aware that they are at an increased risk for heart disease, but high blood sugar can have an equally significant affect on non-diabetics as well.

According to researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, even non-diabetics have a sharply increased risk of heart problems if they have long-term elevated blood sugar. This poses concern because many people think if they are not diabetic then they shouldn’t be worried about their blood sugar and insulin levels. However, long-term high blood sugar can nearly double your risk of heart trouble, even if you haven’t been diagnosed with diabetes.

If you do have diabetes, it is crucial to closely monitor your blood glucose levels. According to the Johns Hopkins study, for just one percentage point increase in blood glucose levels, the chance for a heart attack in diabetics increases by 18%. This number can be alarming, but fortunately lifestyle changes can have a positive effect on blood sugar levels.

Dr. Elizabeth Selvin, the lead author of the study at the Bloomberg School, suggests lifestyle modifications can considerably lower anyone’s risk of heart problems associated with high insulin and blood sugar.

One of the most important ways to regulate your blood sugar—and therefore your insulin—is nutrition. Avoiding foods that cause spikes in blood sugar is ideal. Refined carbohydrates and sugars are the top offenders, but even healthy carbohydrates can cause a sharp rise in blood sugar if consumed alone. Try combining whole carbohydrates with a protein and a serving of healthy fat to slow down the absorption of glucose in the body. Protein, fat and fiber will all lower the glycemic index of a meal, which means it will have less of an impact on your blood sugar. If you decide to indulge in a sugary dessert, apply the same concept by eating a little protein beforehand to limit the affect on your blood glucose.

Regular activity is also a good way to maintain healthy blood glucose levels. Simple exercise, such as a daily walk, can have a significant impact on your blood sugar. Resistance exercise that builds muscle is also highly recommended. On a similar note, maintaining a healthy weight helps your body regulate its blood glucose and insulin as well. People who are overweight are more likely to suffer from high blood sugar and insulin levels.

Tomah Health