Heart of the matter

With World Heart Day this Saturday, we’re looking at what you can do to take better care of  your heart if you have diabetes. 

Heart and circulatory disease cause more than a quarter of all deaths in the UK each year. People with diabetes have a high risk of developing these conditions, but regular exercise will make your heart and blood circulatory system more efficient, lower your cholesterol level, and also keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.

“People think the big health threats linked to diabetes are hypos and diabetic ketoacidosis,” says Simon O’Neill, our Director of Health Intelligence and Professional Liaison. “But the biggest killer of people with diabetes is heart disease and heart failure. So any improvement in weight management and physical activity tends to lower all your cardiovascular risk, and that’s really important for both types of diabetes.

Weight matters

Whether you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes and are overweight, slimming down can have a big impact on how your body responds to medication and the management of your condition.

“There’s a myth that people with Type 1 diabetes are all slim, when in fact they are exactly the same proportion of overweight and obese people as there are in the general population,” says Simon.  “For people with Type 1 diabetes, as you get older and if your weight increases, you are more likely to develop insulin resistance.

“Ninety per cent of people with Type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese,” says Simon. “Losing weight could make your diabetes easier to manage, or even put you into remission. So there’s a real incentive for people with Type 2 diabetes – or those with Type 1 who have a high body mass index – to slim down.

Waist management

When you have diabetes, carrying excess weight – particularly around your middle – can put a strain on more than just your waistband.

“The big problem with visceral body fat – the type of fat that’s stored around your middle and surrounds key organs like your liver and pancreas – is that people think it’s inactive, ,” says Simon. “But it actually produces lots of hormones, most of which go against the action of insulin. So losing weight is not only important for your general health, but it also helps manage your diabetes better.”

Get more information

Sign up to our free online Learning Zone – which is designed for people with diabetes by people with diabetes. You’ll find a ‘Food Hacks’ module that can help you plan meals and improve what you eat. This will make a big difference to your condition.

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