Diabetes is a risk factor for heart disease.   Approximately 3.6 million Canadians were living with diabetes from 2019 to 2020 and more than 200,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, according to Health Canada.

Diabetes increases the risk of high blood pressure, narrowing of the arteries, coronary artery disease and stroke. Heart disease on average comes at a younger age in diabetics.

Here are some recommendations to assist you in reducing your risk:

  • Keeping your blood sugar levels under control is the goal. HbA1c is a blood test ordered by your health care provider every 3 to 6 months. It gives a 3-month window into how controlled your sugars have been. Work with your health care provider and diabetes team in managing and understanding your medications.
  • Exercise makes the muscles in the body more efficient with the oxygen they are supplied. Walking 3 to 5 times a week helps increase the oxygen levels in your blood and can make your heart more efficient. Ongoing exercise over time decreases the workload of the heart, lowering blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Keep your weight under control. Watch for triggers to unhealthy eating such as stress and lack of sleep. Reducing weight can reduce blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking itself reduces the size of blood vessels leading to high blood pressure.
  • Manage your cholesterol. Diabetes leads to stiffening of the blood vessels (atherosclerosis) along with fatty plaque buildup which becomes harder over time. Eating a low-fat diet and taking cholesterol lowering medications as prescribed, will slow the progression of heart disease. If you have side effects, talk to your health care provider as there are many options. Statins (a class of cholesterol lowering agents) have anti-inflammatory properties which slow the progression of heart disease.
  • Control blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to heartrate irregularities and heart failure, where the heart is not able to meet the supply of blood needed for the tissues and organs of the body.

In an effort to help reduce heart disease in Northwestern Ontario, Northern Hearts and Compass North are offering an educational presentation on Diabetes and Your Heart on Wednesday, Oct 25th from 7-8pm at the Oliver Road Community Centre.  The presentation is open to the public with no fees to attend and registration is not required.

Northern Hearts is also encouraging residents of Nipigon and area to join Dr. Dhaliwal, Dr. Labine and Dr. Scott along with nurse practitioners, Joshua Belanger and Grace Fox for a “Walk with Doc” to be held in Nipigon on Wednesday, October 25th from 12-1 starting at the Nipigon Marina. The “Walk with Doc” program is intended to help build and maintain healthy and active lifestyles. Everyone is welcome to attend, and no registration is required.

Submitted by: Grace Fox, NP PHC/Adult, Board Member, Northern Hearts