by Dr. Chad Larson, Advisor and Consultant at Cyrex Laboratories
February is American Heart Month and the perfect time to think about our cardiovascular health. Cardiovascular diseases are those that affect the heart and blood vessels and include stroke, coronary artery disease (CAD), heart failure, and other poor heart and vascular health outcomes. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, with one person dying every 36 seconds.
Since metabolic health is directly related to cardiovascular health, changes in metabolic health can positively or negatively impact heart health. Because of this, individuals with diabetes who are striving to manage their metabolic health or suffer from blood sugar dysregulation are a group that is particularly prone to cardiovascular disease. A recent study was published that found women with diabetes aged between 45 and 65 years have a 10-fold increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) compared to those of similar age without diabetes. It’s unclear at this point why women are more affected, but one thing is clear: It’s vital that diabetics, women particularly, do as much as possible to monitor their metabolic health to reduce the long-term risk of cardiovascular disease.
Why are diabetics particularly at risk?
It all starts with the ability to monitor and manage blood sugar and increased susceptibility to metabolic syndrome. Blood sugar dysregulation is at the core of metabolic health and can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) which is associated with both abdominal fat and can lead to non-alcoholic fatty pancreas disease (NAFPD). NAFPD is associated with diabetes, arterial hypertension, and metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome is generally agreed to be diagnosed by having at least three of the five criteria: elevated blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, elevated blood sugar, low HDL-cholesterol, and a waist circumference greater than 40 inches in men and 35 inches in women. Another risk factor that is being explored is insulin resistance, however, has yet to be conclusively linked. One thing is clear, though, and that is that metabolic syndrome doubles the risk for cardiovascular disease over five to 10 years.
How to reduce your long-term risk
One of the best ways to reduce the long-term risk of cardiovascular disease and poor metabolic health is to adopt a healthful diet and a more active lifestyle. While we’ve all heard this before, it’s good to be reminded that the American Heart Association recommends 2.5 hours of “moderate-intensity” aerobic activity per week. That means 30 minutes for five of the seven days a week. Not only will this help with metabolic health, but it also provides a plethora of physical and mental health benefits. For some, it’s been hard to keep up any level of physical activity during the pandemic. Gyms are closed and as we’re trying to avoid close contact with people outside our household, many are choosing to stay at home. It is, however, advisable to try to incorporate some sort of physical activity, as sitting in your home 24/7 is a sure way to increase your chances of poor metabolic health. Even if you simply go for a walk around your neighborhood or try some of the at-home workouts you can find online, any physical activity is better than none.
Another way to monitor metabolic health and reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease is to stay on top of regular doctor visits and health screenings. One screening that is good for this type of concern is the Array 6 Diabetes Autoimmune Reactivity Screen™. This test assesses markers of the autoimmune components of diabetes to help doctors identify reactivity prior to the onset of diabetes and to monitor patients who have already been diagnosed. It can assist in the early detection of autoimmune processes of Type 1 diabetes, impaired blood-sugar metabolism, and metabolic syndrome and is well suited for patients that have Type 1 or severe/atypical manifestations of Type 2 diabetes. It can also be implemented when assessing the health of those with a family history of Type 1 diabetes or metabolic syndrome, or who have gluten reactivity, dairy sensitivity, or cerebellar ataxia.
Lowering risk and understanding connections
One of the first steps in lowering the risk for long-term cardiovascular disease is understanding the connection between it and metabolic health. This is particularly important for individuals with diabetes who are at an increased risk of blood sugar dysregulation and metabolic syndrome. By first recognizing that blood sugar dysregulation plays a large role in diseases that can lead to metabolic syndrome, we can then meet these challenges head-on with proper prevention tactics including proper diet, regular physical activity, and proactive monitoring through blood tests such as the Array 6. By taking control of their blood sugar, activity levels and consulting with physicians to stay on top of health monitoring, diabetics can significantly increase their chances of having strong cardiovascular and metabolic health.
Dr. Chad Larson, NMD, DC, CCN, CSCS, Advisor, and Consultant on Clinical Consulting Team for Cyrex Laboratories. Dr. Larson holds a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine degree from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and a Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Southern California University of Health Sciences. He is a Certified Clinical Nutritionist and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He particularly pursues advanced developments in the fields of endocrinology, orthopedics, sports medicine, and environmentally-induced chronic disease.