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As we observe Heart Health Awareness for February, there are two correlating health factors I am having an issue with and cannot overlook.  According to the CDC, cardiovascular disease affects 122 million Americans; in addition, data also reports more than 463 million of the adult population have Prediabetes or Diabetes.  Is there or is there not a strong correlation between these two diseases?

To answer my question, relying on the most recent evidence-based research studies which state, yes, there is a direct relationship between the two diseases. According to the American Heart Association, adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to die from heart disease than adults without diabetes.  Data further show that even when glucose levels are under control, diabetes increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.  This week along, two different individuals have talked with me regarding their loved ones going to the emergency rooms due to having stokes.   Furthermore, both individuals are diabetics with an history of hyperglycemia/elevated glucose levels.  Is this correlation real or not!

Where and when does it start?  Research data indicates it’s all about the HbA1c.   Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) is a combination of circulating glucose (a by-product of carbohydrates), which attaches to red blood cells (hemoglobin).   A diagnostic blood test is often taken to measures the levels of hemoglobin A1c circulating in the bloodstream.  The results of the test are a means of determining the average blood sugar concentrations circulating within the body over the last two to three months. HbA1c results are indicators used to diagnose the presence of diabetes.  The higher your HbA1c levels, the weaker your blood sugar control, and the higher your risk of diabetes complications.

Tuning into your HbA1c, what are your findings?  A fasting HbA1c test result of greater than or equal to 5.7% to 6.5% indicates a diagnosis of “prediabetes”.  Normal HbA1c is 5.6% or put in another way, which is an average circulating glucose of 117 mg/dL.  However, an HbA1c of 6.5%, indicating Prediabetes, has average circulating glucose of 140 mg/dL.  By definition, mg/dL means how many milligrams (mg) of glucose are traveling around in one deciliter of blood.  A deciliter (dL is about 3.3 ounces.) An average fasting blood glucose is around 100mg/dL.

Thus, fasting circulating glucose of 140 mg/dL or HbA1c of 6.5% is one in the same none the less are precursors to diabetes.  One or two things are happening: the body (pancreas) is not able to produce enough insulin to meet the body’s needs.  Secondly, the body may not be able to use insulin correctly.   Results are too much sugar (glucose) is in the bloodstream, which leads to complications and, ultimately diabetes.

If you receive a diagnosis of Prediabetes, here are three lifestyle changes you may want to consider making, which will lower HbA1c.

Exercise:  research data reports daily physical activity improves the level of insulin sensitivity in the muscles.  For instance, exercise enables the muscles to pull in the excess circulating glucose out of the bloodstream to use as fuel.    Data supports as little as 30-minute walks three times a week effectively lowered circulating glucose.  Effects of exercise are seen immediately after a bout of physical activity and continue from 16 to 48 hours following.   As with all healthy lifestyle changes, consistency is mandatory. Research studies show a loss of the benefits obtained from exercising with cessation.

Diet:  Following a plant-based diet such as the DASH or the Mediterranean, according to research studies, are useful for the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes.    Plant-Based diets are eating patterns that emphasize legumes, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds and discourage the intake of red meats and processed foods.

Weight Loss:  A BMI of 30 or more is an indication of obesity.   Evidence-based data shows a weight loss of 5-10 percent of your current weight will reduce HbA1c by half a point.  Also, weight loss can improve blood pressure and the cardiovascular system.

Tuning into your HbA1c is crucial, according to the Center for Disease Control, 84.1 million people have the condition of Prediabetes, do you know your status.   This condition can be controlled and does not have to lead to Diabetes by making a few simple lifestyle changes.  For February, tune in and tune Down your HbA1c.