The Connection Between Diabetes and Atherosclerosis

hh-14.jpgPeople with diabetes are at risk for a number of serious, sometimes life-threatening complications. One of these is threats is to heart health.

Over one-hundred fifty million people worldwide suffer from diabetes. Almost twenty-one million of them live in the United States. Of those twenty-one million, over six million (nearly one third) are unaware that they are diabetic.

This devastating disease starves the body of its energy sources, causing poor circulation, heart disease and nerve dysfunction. Left uncorrected, it can lead to blindness, kidney failure and limb amputation.

It can be prevented.

‘Diabetes’ is a general term for several conditions where the body fails to correctly produce or utilize insulin. Insulin is a hormone that converts sugar, starches and other food into energy on a cellular level. Nine out of ten diabetics, have type 2 diabetes from their bodies’ progressive failures to respond to the insulin the pancreas produces.

Diabetes increases inflammation and slows blood flow, which accelerates the production of atherosclerotic plaque (deposits that line the walls of arteries, closing them in). Experts used to assume that plaque built up from too much cholesterol. Most now agree that it’s not a cholesterol problem, but an inflammatory and immune response to damage in arteries. Plaque is more like a protective scab that shields the damaged artery. Since diabetes increases blood vessel inflammation, diabetics have double the risk of heart attacks.

With diabetes, since the insulin isn’t processing the sugar, it builds up in the bloodstream. The elevated blood sugar levels also increase free radicals and reduce nitric oxide, which normally helps vessels relax for increased blood flow. Healthy people make plenty of nitric oxide to dilate their arteries. Faster blood flow (particularly from exercise) protects blood vessels from atherosclerosis.

Obesity greatly contributes to diabetes and adversely affects heart health. In those who are overweight, losing just ten pounds can cut diabetes risk by 58%. One study revealed that women who drank at least one soda a day increased their likelihood of type 2 diabetes by 85%. The top source of calories for Americans is sugar in soda!

What can we do to save or hearts and prevent diabetes?

  • Lose weight and exercise. That’s the best place to start.
  • Eat more cinnamon. Research shows cinnamon may act as an insulin substitute in type 2 diabetes. Diabetics who ate lots of cinnamon had lower blood sugar levels, lower triglycerides (unused fat stored first in your blood and later in fat cells) and better cholesterol levels.
  • Take EPA and DHA (omega-3 fish oils) as a daily supplement. It seems to work in overweight diabetics by enhancing the sensitivity of insulin receptors on cells, allowing them to then utilize insulin to absorb sugars.
  • Take chromium picolinate. Much like the thyroid needs iodine to function, the pancreas requires the mineral chromium. Those who have a deficiency of chromium exhibit glucose intolerance, and supplementation with chromium can improve this.

The effect of diabetes on our bodies is slow, but potentially destructive, directly affecting heart disease and our risks for heart attacks. Good heart health means preventing or managing diabetes with lifestyle changes and quality supplements to regain and maintain our health and wellness.

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