Diabetic? Take extra care of those vulnerable organs

2011-04-13 00:00

AN excess of glucose in the bloodstream over an extended period of time can cause diabetes complications and damage parts of the body such as the heart, the kidneys and the eyes.

I am going to cover some of these complications in the next few articles, concentrating on the heart today.

Your heart is actually a muscle and it is responsible for pumping blood through the body. This makes sure that oxygen is taken right around the body via blood vessels called arteries (smaller blood vessels are called capillaries). Veins take the blood back to the heart and the process starts again.

HOW YOU CAN HELP PROTECT YOUR HEART

• Make sure that your blood pressure stays controlled. Your doctor should check it at every visit. The target is 130/80 or below.

• Check your cholesterol levels. The cholesterol is broken down into three parts:

• LDL (bad) cholesterol needs to be below 3,36 mmol/l;

• HDL (good) cholesterol needs to be above 1,03mmol/l; and

• triglycerides need to be below 1,69 mmol/l.

• Exercise is important — aim for 30 minutes most days of the week. If you have not done any exercise for some time, check with your doctor what would be good for you and see a biokineticist to get an exercise­ plan. Park your car away from the shops and walk and take the stairs not the lift.

• Choose heart-healthy foods — high fibre, low-fat and no saturated fat and limit trans-fat foods. See a dietician for help in this area.

• Keep your blood glucose under control. Have an A1C test done by your health-care team at least every­ six months. This A1C is your guide to your average control. You should also be testing your blood sugar regularly at home for a more regular guide to good blood-sugar readings. If they are poorly controlled you need to seek assistance from your diabetes team.

• Weight loss if you are overweight will take pressure off your heart. A dietician and biokineticist will help with programmes for this.

So What Is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a substance which is made by the body and is important for normal functioning of the body. The problem comes in when we have too much cholesterol in the body and it clogs up the arteries and blood vessels. This is called atherosclerosis.

The HDL is responsible for stopping the bad cholesterol being laid down on vessel walls, but sometimes when our bodies are not working too well, or we eat too much of the wrong fats, the HDL cannot do its job well enough and we get high cholesterol levels. This puts us at risk of angina, strokes and heart attacks, as well as high blood pressure. Clogged blood vessels­ also cause peripheral artery­ disease, which is restricted flow to the legs and feet. It causes pain, tingling and numbness in the legs, and feet and sores do not heal well. It can happen to anyone who has poor circulation, not just to diabetics­.

Control of diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels all decrease the overall risk that sufferers of any of the above conditions have for stroke or heart disease. In someone with diabetes, the risk of heart disease and stroke is higher, which makes it even more important to manage all these conditions carefully.

Making lifestyle changes — dietary­ and exercise — as well as having regular medical check-ups and taking medication as prescribed are all important in the road to better overall health.

 

— Information for this article                     was taken from http://  diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/                        complications_heart/ • Kate Bristow is a nursing sister with a special interest in diabetes. She now does dia-betes education on a full-time basis. She also runs a diabetes management programme which certain medical aids are linked to. For further information please contact her at 082 406 8707.

Basic rules to stay healthy with diabetes

• Follow a healthy eating plan — one that has been devised for you by a dietician.

• Follow some form of exercise regimen to stay active. This is best done with the guidance of a biokineticist­.

• Take medication as advised by your doctor and your diabetes educator.

• Check your blood glucose on a regular basis and write these readings down. This is your tool to understanding your diabetes. It is also important to check more often when you are unwell or starting exercise or if you have any other changes in your life, such as extreme stress. Your diabetes educator can help you interpret the readings.

• Check your feet on a daily basis. Be on the lookout for cuts, blisters, sores or calluses. It is a good idea to see a podiatrist at least once a year.

• Follow good dental hygiene practices — visit your dentist regularly and floss and brush your teeth after each meal.

• Ensure that you control your blood pressure and cholesterol by regular monitoring (in a pharmacy or by your doctor), good lifestyle practices and the regular use of any medication which may have been prescribed.

• Avoid smoking and if you are a smoker try to quit.

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