This week’s guest post is by Katie Brind’Amour, one of my favorite health writers. In it she offers information and helpful hints for preventing and/or dealing with heart disease and Type II diabetes. I know I get sloppy about my diet, especially when traveling, so I appreciate the reminders. Thanks, Katie!
Being a Post-Menopausal Goddess Doesn’t Save You from Heart Disease or Diabetes
Unfortunately, the hard-won pluses of being past Hollywood’s definition of “prime” do not equal a free pass for taking care of your health. Older women have a double whammy ready to work against them: a high risk of developing diabetes and an all-around increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Cardiovascular events, like heart attacks and strokes, are the number one killer in the elderly. Worse still, women with Type 2 diabetes have the same risk of dying of a cardiac event as do women without diabetes who have a history of cardiovascular disease. That means that diabetes makes you just as likely to die of cardiovascular problems as women who already have heart disease.
As if aging weren’t tough enough on its own, Mother Nature has to make it darn clear to older ladies that they are no exception to the general rule of increased risks for diabetics. The recent study on over 9,200 women found that the relationship between heart disease and diabetes mirrored the rest of the population’s: one disease is bad enough on its own, but diabetes is like having (at least) two in one.
What is a Lady to Do?
Although the latest health news is dim, there is a silver lining: both cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes are often preventable. This means that, with time and effort, you can drastically reduce your chances of succumbing to heart disease and diabetes (and all of their nasty, deadly side effects).
There are two key ways to prevent these conditions that everyone knows but no one likes to hear. A healthy diet and regular exercise are absolutely the best ways to avoid these diagnoses. Maintaining a healthy weight (particularly avoiding extra pounds around the waist) can significantly cut your risk of each illness.
If you are already living with diabetes or heart disease, there are also a few steps you can take to reduce your future risk of a cardiac event, complications, or death. Take these simple, natural solutions to heart, and commit to a healthier lifestyle to truly make a difference in your future.
Natural Ways to Avoid Heart Disease
In addition to eating a healthy, balanced diet (aim for half veggies, one quarter lean protein, and one quarter whole grains at each meal), exercise is essential. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise (like brisk walking, swimming, water aerobics, tennis, cross-country skiing, ballroom dancing, or biking) at least five days each week. Gardening and walking the dog count, too, and if you love to dance while you wash dishes or vacuum, keep up the good work!
If you are diabetic or if you are currently inactive, talk with your healthcare provider before beginning a new exercise routine. Build up to a regular and more vigorous regimen gradually, even if you have to start with just a few minutes of walking each day.
Next, tackle the other parts of your life that can best reduce your risk of heart disease.
Drop the tobacco habit. Smoking does serious damage to blood vessels and the heart. Kicking the addiction can add years to your life—even if you aren’t already diabetic. Check out free online “quit smoking” chat rooms or ask about health benefits from your employer or health program to get a little help.
Eat heart-healthy foods. Even if you are already eating a healthy diet, try incorporating additional heart-healthy foods into your weekly menu. These include foods with healthy fats, like fish and nuts. You should cut down on red meats and processed foods, then up your intake of beans, vegetables, and whole grains. Yum.
Get your waist below 35 inches. Extra weight around the middle is a major risk factor for both diabetes and heart disease. Even losing about 5–10% of your body weight can help slash your risk of these diseases if you are currently overweight or obese. Hence the recommendation above for regular exercise (there’s no getting away from that one, ladies!).
Take advantage of health screenings. Getting your annual check-up and screenings as recommended can literally save your life. An early indication of cardiovascular disease—like high blood pressure or blood cholesterol levels—can be the early warning you need to seek more aggressive treatments. Keeping blood glucose levels in the recommended range will also ensure that your body functions as normally and as healthily as possible.
No matter your inherited risk and current trajectory, you can make a difference in your future risk. Diabetes and heart disease are life-changing (and sometimes life-ending). Make sure that you are doing all you can to live a healthier, happier, longer life. You can do it!