14 November marks the birthday of Frederick Banting who discovered insulin almost 100 years ago. Every year on this date World Diabetes Day aims to raise awareness of diabetes and what it’s like to live with the condition. This year’s theme is ‘Women and diabetes - our right to a healthy future.’
Our Damart Loving Hearts women’s campaign found that more than one in three of the 4,000 women surveyed didn’t know that diabetes carries an increased risk of heart disease. Risk of developing cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke may be eight times higher in women with diabetes.
Two types of diabetes are known to affect blood vessels, circulation and the heart. Type 1 diabetes is a serious autoimmune disease which attacks the pancreas and prevents it producing insulin causing a harmful surge of glucose in the blood. Type 1 diabetes can and ought to be controlled with correct medication along with healthy food choices and regular physical activity. Type 2 diabetes is caused by an inability of the body’s own insulin to keep up with its demands, usually as a result of obesity. Type 2 diabetes remains a serious condition with complications such as eye, nerve and kidney damage.
The good news is that type 2 diabetes is largely preventable and symptoms can often be reversed by leading a healthy lifestyle. Heart Research UK has some useful advice to help ward off your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease;
Know the warning signs
If you’re over 40 years, take advantage of the free health checks at your GP’s office. Don’t ignore common symptoms, which include:
- Needing to go to the toilet a lot
- Feeling really thirsty
- Feeling more tired than normal
- unexplained weight loss
Aim for 150 minutes of moderate activity per week and aim to be active most days. You don’t need to start a gym membership to get slightly out of breath and warm, it might be as simple as having a corporate walk instead of a staff meeting or starting a DIY project at home, just keep moving. Physical activity helps to regulate your blood glucose, improve circulation and lower your blood pressure. It may also help to control your weight and keep your waist circumference in check.
Carbs aren’t the enemy
Whilst it’s a good idea to cut down on free sugars added to sugary foods and limit the amount of fruit juice you have to 150mls, you need to base your meals on starchy carbohydrates and aim for 5-a-day fruit and veg. Potatoes and wholegrain varieties of rice, pasta and bread are far from the enemy when it comes to heart health. These carbs are an excellent source of heart-healthy fibre which helps to control your blood glucose and cholesterol levels. At less than 4 calories per 100g carbohydrates and zero calories from fibre, starchy foods fill you up without you piling on the weight. Just give the butter a miss, choose small amounts of rapeseed oil when cooking and keep an eye on your portion sizes.
If you tipple, do it sensibly
Alcohol dilates your blood vessels and plays mayhem with your blood glucose which is risky business for your heart, liver and pancreas. Keep your alcohol consumption within the low risk alcohol guidelines, currently 14 units per week for both women and men. This is about the same as six pints of beer or medium glasses of wine, but don’t drink it all at once. It’s important to spread this allowance over a few days and include at least two alcohol free days. So why not try giving your body a rest in the lead up to Christmas?
Watch your waistline
Studies have shown that being ‘apple’ shaped is strongly associated with a higher risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. So, if you carry weight round your middle, take extra care to keep your waistline trim. Keep your waist circumference below 31.5 inches if you are a woman, less than 37 inches if you are a man and less than 35 inches if you are a man of South Asian origin.
By keeping active and eating well, you will ensure that you keep your weight and your waistline in check, which are two major risk factors for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Make simple changes now to live a healthier, happier, longer life.