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Take Heart: Six Tips to Reduce Your Risk for Heart Disease

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Diabetic? You could be at risk for heart disease.

Take heart. You can reduce your cardiovascular risk by exercising, losing weight, following a low glycemic diet, keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol under control, managing stress, getting enough sleep…and watching your sugars.

It sounds harder than it is. When seen as individual tasks, each is manageable.

First, get your doctor’s approval to exercise, then schedule it as a “Don’t Skip” appointment on your calendar. Exercise once a week for a month. Slowly add an extra day every month until you are exercising 3-5 days a week, including one brisk 30/45-minute cardiovascular workout. You’ll feel better, and your cardiac risk will drop.
Losing weight isn’t a sprint. Small changes add up. If you exercise and cut back on simple carbohydrates, you should lose 1-2 lbs. per week. Stay consistent and you can continue losing body weight…and keep it off.
Optimum blood pressure should be 120/80. If yours is higher, lower it through regular exercise, cutting out extra salt and keeping well-hydrated. If that doesn’t work, prescription medication and physician guidance should help bring your pressure down.
Unfortunately, cholesterol is produced by your liver and, most times, it can’t be controlled by diet alone. You may need medications or nutrients and supplements that provide health benefits to effectively lower your levels. Your physician can run a cholesterol panel to determine what’s best for you.
Limit stress: Stress increases adrenaline and cortisol levels, both of which wreak havoc on your cardiovascular system. Learn to manage stress through meditation, yoga, tai chi or through (yes, I’m going to say it again) exercise…and you can reduce your cardiovascular risk.
Get plenty of sleep. Your body needs down time to physically recover from each day and let your brain “download” everything that occurred while you were awake. If you are overweight, you could suffer from sleep apnea, which, in essence, asphyxiates you in short bursts and disrupts your sleep. If you think you might have sleep apnea, seek medical care.
By watching what you eat and drink, cutting down on sugars and working with a knowledgeable physician, you’ll go a long way toward preventing many diabetes complications. You don’t need a “Month” to begin working toward a healthier lifestyle but, since November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, now’s a good time to start!

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