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Diabetes and Heart Health

09/11/2011

  • Narrator:

    The human heart. This astonishing yet relatively simple organ beats at a rate of about 72 times every minute of every day, yet we often take it for granted. Prolonged high blood sugar levels, often reflected as an elevated A1c, drastically increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. The American Diabetes Association recommends that people with diabetes check their A1c at least twice a year and maintain a reading of around 7 or lower.

  • Richard Jones:

    My A1c’s were up in the high 9s.

  • Narrator:

    Richard Jones, a senior lecturer at Old Dominion University, knew his type 2 diabetes was out of control and placing his life in jeopardy.

  • Jones:

    Two and a half weeks at a CCU at Portsmouth Naval Hospital. Sleep apnea, a mini stroke ... It’s time to, to decide I’m not going to live all that long and be like other, like my dad who didn’t live that long with diabetes -- he died in his early 70s -- or do I want to live. And so I made that decision to live.

  • Narrator:

    Richard began to turn things around with a heart healthy diet -- one that includes the right measures of healthy fats, vegetables, and properly balances proteins and carbohydrates. He also starting moving.

  • Jones:

    Above all else, the exercise is important.

  • Narrator:

    To stay motivated he enrolled in an diabetes/exercise study run by Sheri Colberg at the university.

  • Sheri Colberg, PhD:

    Exercise helps two ways to counter heart disease. The first is that it actually increases the size of the vessels that your blood flows through -- both the arteries and the veins -- and it allows your blood to flow more effectively through those vessels.  The second is that it helps prevent and possibly reverse plaque formation that blocks arteries.  

  • Narrator:

    And that can translate to lower blood pressure, slower pulse rate, and a greater amount of healthy cholesterol or HDL.

  • Jones:

    I started out just doing treadmill.  I had to be able to get my heart in enough shape to be able to handle the rest of the stuff and work on my attitude.  So I spent almost six months just doing treadmill. It was a long climb down the hill to get there, but I didn’t really want to get there for quite a while.  You have to want to.

  • Narrator:

    Richard finally got to where he wanted go, building up both his strength and stamina. Today his glucose levels are out of the danger zone and he successfully controls his diabetes without need of insulin injections, which he gave himself daily before he shed 60 pounds and an unhealthy lifestyle.

  • Jones:

    I just wanted to live and I wanted to have some quality of life when I lived.

  • Narrator:

    For WebMD, I’m Damon Meharg.