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A link between diabetes and heart disease

Adventist Health Health and Wellness, Fitness

We all love a loaf of French bread with dinner or a bag of licorice for dessert. But sugars from these foods are "not so sweet" enemies that damage our pancreas and heart, causing diabetes and cardiovascular problems.

And the two are more tightly linked than you may have thought. Nearly 70 percent of people living with diabetes who are 65 or older will die from some form of heart disease.

One of the main causes for diabetes is weight gain and obesity, especially around the tummy. An estimated 1.8 million adult Oregonians are obese or overweight, putting them at risk for developing diabetes and heart disease. The more weight we have, the harder the pancreas must work to produce insulin. This in turn, makes people more susceptible to heart disease, which causes a quarter of all deaths in Oregon each year. That's why it's so important to skip the drive-through window and limit the amount of processed foods we eat that are full of fat, sugar and sodium.

Dr. Leonard Bertheau"Consuming foods high in sugar, fats and carbohydrates increases the amount of sugar in your blood stream," says Dr. Leonard Bertheau, a family physician and diabetologist at Adventist Health Medical Group’s Diabetes and Endocrine Center in Portland. "The sugars from these types of foods then attach themselves to the outside of your red blood cells, destroying the cells and thickening your blood, causing blood vessel damage and vascular problems."

Prevent diabetes through exercise and weight loss

The good news is that through lifestyle improvements, diabetes and heart disease are both preventable and the effects of the diseases can be reduced even if you've been diagnosed.

David - Cardiac Rehabilitation patient"Improving your diet, getting regular exercise and losing weight are the best things you can do to prevent diabetes and heart disease," says Dr. Bertheau. "I recommend that my patients add more fruits and vegetables to their diets and cut out the junk food that's full of fat. An improved diet combined with regular exercise can help shed unwanted pounds, reducing the risk for diabetes and heart disease."

Dr. Bertheau recommends getting at least 30 minutes of moderate daily activity, and if possible, getting enough exercise to increase your heart rate. Try getting a walk in at lunch with coworkers or hitting the gym after a long day at the office. On the weekends, take a hike through Washington Park or along the waterfront with friends.

And eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is the best way to reduce your risk for diabetes and heart disease. You should eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day to get the vitamins, nutrients and minerals your body and heart need to stay healthy.

Dr. Leonard Bertheau will be presenting about diabetes and heart disease prevention at "A Fair of the Heart" on February 28, a free event to celebrate our hearts.