Keeping Your Heart Healthy When You Have Prediabetes
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Prediabetes is a condition with higher-than-normal blood sugar, and knowing that you have prediabetes gives you an opportunity to change your lifestyle to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. That is why you are in the Lark DPP!
There is more to the story. The knowledge that you have prediabetes can be a chance not only to lower diabetes risk, but also to think about other good things you can do for your health. As the Lark check-in mentioned, prediabetes is a risk factor for heart disease, and many of the lifestyle changes that can lower blood sugar can also support heart health.
Prediabetes and Heart Health
If high blood sugar is the hallmark of prediabetes and diabetes, how is heart health related? It turns out that prediabetes is a risk factor for heart disease and related measures . Among people with prediabetes, risk for cardiovascular disease is 10 to 20% higher.
Plus, an estimated:
- 40 to 60% have hypertension (high blood pressure).
- 35 to 50% have dyslipidemia (high cholesterol and/or triglycerides).
- 3 in 5 have obesity.
Lifestyle changes that lower blood sugar can also lead to reductions in these risk factors, too. The same healthy choices that Lark encourages you to make to lower blood sugar can improve heart health.
The Importance of Weight Control
Weight loss is a major focus of the DPP because getting off a few pounds can lower diabetes risk by over half. Losing extra pounds can lead to big benefits for heart health, too. Losing weight can lower high blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides, and reduce the risk of stroke and heart attacks.
As with lowering blood sugar, lowering heart disease risk does not require a whole lot of weight loss. Losing just a little bit of weight can have a big effect. Lark DPP encourages you to set a goal of losing 5 to 7% of your starting weight. That equates to 8 to 11 lb. if your starting weight is 160 lb, 10 to 14 lb. if your starting weight is 200 lb., or 12 to 16 lb. if your starting weight is 230 lb.
The coaching in Lark DPP is geared towards helping you lose weight with small, sustainable changes in your lifestyle choices. There is no need to adopt a completely different lifestyle or deprive yourself. Rather, these are some sample changes that can lead to weight loss.
- Serve steamed vegetables instead of rice or fries for side dishes.
- Cut desserts in half.
- Have fish or skinless chicken instead of fatty meat.
- Choose water and whole fruit instead of fruit juices and drinks.
- Stand up and move for 1 to 2 minutes each half hour that you are sitting.
When these or similar changes become habits, weight can come off and, more importantly, stay off.
How Will You Get Active?
The other main goal in the DPP is to get active. Lark encourages you to aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity per week. That amount is based on research showing that people who have prediabetes and get that much activity have a lower risk of developing diabetes.
At the same time, getting active helps your heart. This amount and type of physical activity can:
- Lower "bad" LDL cholesterol levels.
- Lower total cholesterol levels.
- Raise "good" HDL cholesterol levels.
- Lower triglyceride levels.
- Lower high blood pressure.
What counts? You can choose from any number of activities, such as brisk walking, hiking, playing basketball or tennis, cycling, taking group fitness classes, gardening, and rowing...for starters. These are some pointers for getting consistent and keeping it up.
- Love what you do. Keep trying new activities until you find one or more that you enjoy.
- Prevent boredom by doing a few different activities regularly, walking different routes, or doing some workouts alone and some with friends.
- Tell Lark what you did. When you log your activity, you can see a record of it and be motivated to keep it up.
- When you hit milestones such as working out 5 times in a week or being consistent for a month, reward yourself with new shoes, a massage, or some other non-food treat.
Other types of exercise can lower blood sugar and improve heart health. For example, resistance training with weights, resistance bands, or body weight can lower blood pressure and blood sugar.
Eat Right to Prevent Diabetes
There is more than weight loss when it comes to good eating. Healthier choices can lower blood sugar and improve cholesterol and blood pressure levels, while lowering stroke and heart attack risk. These are a few of the foods that can improve your overall health, so they make a solid foundation for a great diet.
- Fresh or unsweetened frozen fruit
- Whole grains, such as whole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, whole grain cereal, oatmeal, and quinoa
- Fish and other lean proteins
- Reduced-fat dairy products
- Healthy fats, such as olive oil, nuts, and avocados
- Legumes, such as beans, peas, and lentils
The Lark check-in mentioned concerns with bad fats and fried foods. While a bit is okay every so often, it is generally healthiest to limit:
- Fatty red meats and poultry with skin.
- French fries and hash browns.
- Battered onion rings, cauliflower, mushrooms, and cheese and zucchini sticks.
- Fried chicken and fish.
- Doughnuts and churros.
- Potato chips.
Bad fats and fried foods are not the only foods that affect blood sugar and heart health. Other foods to have only occasionally, and in smaller portions, include:
- Processed meats.
- White bread, pasta, and rice.
- Other refined grains, such as refined cereals and white crackers.
- Soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages.
- Sugar-sweetened desserts, such as cake, cookies, and ice cream.
Help with a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle
The good news is that while cardiovascular risk is higher if you have prediabetes, there are tons of things you can do to your cardiovascular risk. The news gets better when you realize that that heart-healthy lifestyle can also lower diabetes risk. Better yet, you are already doing many of the right things when you follow Lark's program.
Lark DPP supports you in making simple changes that fit into your individual lifestyle. Practicing small changes helps turn them into habits so healthy choices become automatic. It may become natural to put your walking shoes in the trunk before you leave for work, to order a small latte instead of a large, and to add lettuce and tomatoes to sandwiches, for example.
The ways Lark can help include:
- Reminding you to log meals and get active.
- Providing instant feedback on your meals to reinforce the great choices and, for less-healthy choices, to suggest possible healthier swaps next time.
- Summarizing your weight, food, and activity trends so you can see how you are doing.
- Keeping you motivated by explaining why these healthy choices are important, and how each little bit helps.
When healthy choices are automatic, they are likelier to be sustainable long-term. Pounds that you lose may stay off, and cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure may be less likely to creep back up. Lark is available 24/7 to support you in your quest for a healthier lifestyle.
- Chiasson JL, Bernard S. Reducing cardiovascular risk factors in patients with prediabetes. Diabetes Manage. (2011) 1(4), 423–438. DOI: 10.2217/dmt.11.28