You have a lot of control over your risk for diabetes and heart disease. What you eat, how much you weigh, and getting physically active can all lower blood sugar and improve heart health. Lark DPP focuses on weight and activity, but the recent check-in brought up smoking, being stressed, and drinking too much alcohol as additional concerns.
It can be empowering to know you can lower heart disease risk at every turn. Here are five ways that you may be raising your risk, and what you can do about it.
1 . Skimping on sleep.
Have you ever heard the expression, “You can sleep when you are dead?” The trouble is that too little sleep may hasten along that time. Getting too little sleep not only makes you groggy, less efficient, and more accident-prone, but it also raises risk for heart attack and high blood pressure, and it interferes with blood sugar control and raises diabetes risk.
Nearly half of Americans could use more sleep. Lark can help you track sleep and find ways to get more if you decide that it is a priority. Better sleep hygiene, which can improve sleep quality, includes following a pre-bedtime routine, not sleeping near your smartphone, avoiding screens before bed, and avoiding caffeine for several hours before bedtime.
2 . Stressing.
Everyone has stress, but some people manage it better than others. The result is better heart health, since too much stress can raise your risk for hypertension, stroke, and heart attack, along with other concerns such as weight gain and depression.
There are plenty of strategies for managing stress in healthy ways. They include getting active, socializing with friends, breathing deeply, and eating healthy. It can also help to keep a log of stress so you can see what bothers you and why.
3. Drinking alcohol.
Too much alcohol can lead not only to acute problems such as intoxication and accidents, but also to higher risk for cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, and heart-related problems such as heart failure and high blood pressure. An estimated 20 to 40% of Americans drink more than recommended amounts.
General guidelines are to limit alcohol consumption to 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks for men for those who already drink, but experts say it may be safer to abstain than to start drinking if you do not already drink regularly.
By the way, cutting back if you drink a lot of alcohol can also help your weight. A 5-oz. glass of wine has 123 calories, a 12-oz. can of beer has 153 calories, and a martini has 235 calories. Cutting back on 2 drinks per day can lead to ½ pound per week of weight loss.
Smoking and using other tobacco products can cause cardiovascular harm in almost every way imaginable. Smoking raises risk for atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, damage to the heart tissue, chest pain, and heart failure. It is also a risk factor for diabetes.
About 1 in 7 adults in the U.S. smoke. Heart health can improve with time after quitting tobacco use, and diabetes risk can decrease. Quitting smoking is tough, but many programs and strategies are available to help. Having a strong support system can help, too, as cravings hit hard and the average successful quitter has tried over 20 times before to quit.
5. Sitting too much.
Exercising daily is great, but you can do even more to lower heart disease risk throughout the day. All it takes is getting up for a minute or two every half hour that you are sitting, because sitting for too long without moving raises diabetes risk along with raising blood pressure and potentially doing harm to blood vessels. It is easy to set a timer so you remember to move regularly, with simple moves such as marching in places, doing arm swings or squats, or stretching.
You have the chance, all day, every day, to make good choices for your heart and your blood sugar. Lark can help by being available 24/7 for reminders, tips, feedback, and encouragement. Each little step you take can have many great effects!