Each year, heart health is thrust into the spotlight by doctors and health care professionals all over the country in recognition of February as American Heart month. It’s a time set aside to stress the importance of eating right and taking care of your heart, something that particularly is important for people with diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, in 2012 more than 29 million adults and children in the United States had diabetes and nearly 86 million had pre-diabetes. The most common long-term complication associated with diabetes is cardiovascular disease. Heart attacks and strokes account for around 65 percent of deaths among diabetes patients.
Registered nurse and certified diabetes educator Dawn Hollaway from the Blount Memorial Diabetes Management Center says one important thing you can do to take better care of your heart is to maintain a healthy weight, which can be accomplished by eating better and increasing your level of activity. “Eating healthy is a key component to maintaining blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels,” Hollaway said. “Part of this involves lowering your intake of saturated and trans fats, which are unhealthy, and increasing your intake of monounsaturated healthy fats. This can be done by reducing how much butter, margarine, sausage, bacon, ground beef and shortening we consume. Try choosing leaner meats such as skinless chicken breasts instead of fried chicken, or substituting skim milk in place of whole milk. We can increase our monounsaturated fats by cooking with canola, olive or avocado oils, and eating more olives, sesame seeds, almonds, cashews and peanuts,” she explained. “When preparing food, try to bake, broil or grill instead of frying. The American Diabetes Association also recommends eating fish two or three times per week to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels,” she added.
As most of us know, exercising also can improve your heart health. “While a healthy diet is one way of decreasing cardiovascular complications, regular exercise also is a necessity,” Hollaway said. “Combining some form of cardiovascular activity four to five days per week with weight lifting two to three times per week has been shown to lower bad cholesterol levels and increase good cholesterol levels. This can be accomplished by walking, jogging, using a treadmill or riding a stationary bike a little bit each day for a few days each week,” she explained.
In recognition of American Heart month, Blount Memorial Hospital is presenting a variety of lectures related to diabetes and heart disease all month long. The first, called “How to Keep Your Diabetic Feet Healthy,” is a continuation of the ongoing Diabetes Lecture Series and will be hosted by podiatrist Dr. David Franklin. It will take place Monday, Feb. 9 from noon – 1 p.m. in the hospital auditorium. A light lunch will be provided. For more information or to register, call 865-977-5767.
Beginning Wednesday, Feb. 18, Blount Memorial’s month-long heart month lecture series kicks off with cardiologist Dr. Aiswarya Sundaram discussing coronary artery disease. Cardiologist Dr. Andrew DeNazareth will discuss echography on Friday, Feb. 20, and cardiologist Dr. Jane Souther will discuss heart failure on Monday, Feb. 23. On Wednesday, Feb. 25, cardiologist Dr. Peter Scott will discuss depression and heart disease, and cardiologist Dr. Michael Gallagher will present “Device Therapy for Cardiac Rhythm Disorders” on Friday, Feb. 28.
Each of these lectures takes place from noon – 1 p.m. in the Blount Memorial Medical Fitness Center classroom, located on the hospital’s 2-east floor. Please mark your calendar, and plan to attend one of these community health forums.