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Diabetes and Your Heart Health – What's the Connection?

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Nancy Ryan, RD, CDE, will discuss Diabetes and Heart Health on WGCH’s  (1490 AM) Spotlight on Medicine radio show at 9 am on Thursday, Feb. 1.


For the estimated one in 10 Americans living with diabetes, managing the disease is especially important for a healthy heart because diabetes raises the risk for cardiovascular complications and illness.

"Most people don't think about how sticky sugar is," says Nancy Ryan, RD, CDE, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Greenwich Hospital. "Visualize the stickiness of honey or juice. The sugar or glucose in our blood is also sticky. When sugar levels are high, sugar can stick to blood vessels and contribute to clogging arteries."

Clogged or hardened arteries can raise blood pressure, more than doubling the risk of heart attack and stroke for people with diabetes.The key to managing diabetes is to control carbohydrates, and limit or avoid saturated fat and salt. "It's fine to eat carbohydrates," said Ryan, "but you don't want your sugar to spike, so balance your meals and snacks to prevent blood sugar from spiking."

Ryan counsels patients who have diabetes, and ooffers these two easy-to-remember tips for balanced eating:
  • Be diligent with carbohydrate portion control. Make a fist. That's your portion size in ratio to your body size. Whether it's an apple, potato or other food containing carbohydrates, this technique helps to control how much you should have at one time.
  • Combine a carbohydrate with a heart-healthy fat, such as olive oil, avocado, peanut butter or other nuts. For breakfast, oatmeal alone can cause blood sugars to spike, but adding a spoonful of unsalted nuts or peanut butter provides balance to limit the aafter-meal rise in sugar. At dinnertime, olive oil drizzled on a salad or vegetables also helps to control the aafter-meal sugar spike.

Nancy Ryan, RD, CDE, facilitates a monthly Diabetes Support Group for patients, family members and caregivers.