In the last few decades, the number of deaths due to heart disease has fallen dramatically. This no doubt is due to all kinds of new treatments plus improved diets. Unfortunately, the massive increase in the number of people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes is expected for the next few decades, may reverse this trend.
Heart attacks are one of the most serious complications of diabetes. Unfortunately people with diabetes are frequently unable to feel the pain that indicates a heart attack. High levels of certain fats in the blood can clog blood vessels, leading to heart attacks.
In an article reported in MEDICC Review in January 2011, researchers at the National Clinical Research Center in Cuba, reported the results of a study of blood fats and silent heart attacks in diabetics.
This particular study included 220 Type 2 diabetics who had no history of chest pains. EKG's radiologic tests and angiography were used to detect which diabetics had suffered a heart attack without realizing it.
- just over 29 per cent of these diabetics were found to have areas of the heart which were not getting enough blood, and
- 68.4 per cent had clogged arteries trying to feed their heart muscles.
Those with silent heart disease had:
- higher levels of cholesterol,
- higher levels of LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, and
- higher blood fats than those with healthy hearts.
The participants with heart problems usually had:
- HDL or "good" cholesterol levels of 44 mg / dl or less,
- LDL or "bad" cholesterol of more than 119.9 mg / dl, and
- blood fats of over 107.2 mg / d.
Low HDL with high blood fats was a particularly unhealthy combination.
The above study was consistent with values used by the Mayo Clinic to identify people at risk for a heart attack. The Mayo Clinic considers:
- HDL levels of below 40 mg / dl for men and below 50 mg / dl for women to place patients at risk.
- the clinic's target value for HDL is 60 mg / dl for both men and women.
To raise your HDL level:
- take in healthy fats such as olive and canola oils, and a small amount of nuts and soybeans.
- avoid saturated fats, or those that are solid at room temperature, such as butter, margarine, and animals fats.
Even quitting smoking can raise your HDL level by as much as 10 per cent. While smoking has many adverse effects on people who do not have diabetes, these effects have been found to be even worse in people with diabetes.
- Physical activity can also raise your HDL level, so take a walk during your lunch break. Cut out a half hour of television viewing or sitting at the computer every day to go for a brisk walk.
- If you are overweight or obese, losing 6 pounds (2.73 kg) can raise your HDL levels by as much as 1 mg / dl.
Many of the same methods of lowering HDL also lower blood fats. Normalizing weight, moderate activity, and replacing saturated with unsaturated fats in your diet can help both.
In addition, eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as flax seed oil, can help to lower blood fat levels. Making some simple changes can make a big difference to your risk of heart disease.