Since Jan. 1, eight people in Johnson County have died from combination of heart disease and diabetes, according to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner.

Since November is National Diabetes Month, the National Institutes for Health is highlighting the link between diabetes and heart disease.

According to the NIH, when blood sugar is high and moving through blood vessels, the vessels and nerves that control the heart can be damaged, causing heart disease.

“We think of diabetes as having to do with elevated blood sugar levels and heart disease with elevated cholesterol levels; and that is true, but the combination of the two diseases increases the impact of both conditions”, said David Leal, program specialist for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension’s Healthy South Texas Initiative. “We feel as though they are separate diseases, but they very much go hand in hand.”

The NIH reports that people are more likely to develop heart disease and have a greater chance of heart attack or stroke with Diabetes. People with Diabetes are also more likely to have certain conditions like high blood pressure or high cholesterol that increase the chances of heart disease or stroke, which is why smoking and the use of tobacco should be stopped. 

Earlier this year, Texas Health Cleburne Cardiologist Carl Horton said when it comes to pursuing a healthy lifestyle, try incorporating heart-healthy foods into your diet.

“You want to focus on low-cholesterol intake,” he said. “For most people their biggest sources of cholesterol intake are red meat and eggs. If you are trying to do a heart-health diet, you should try to go more toward a plant-based diet.”

Horton said patients experiencing heart disease should eliminate animal fats from meat, dairy, cheese, whole milk from their diet.

“You want to eat more fruits, salads, vegetables, nuts and also less fried foods,” he said. “You want to do more grilling and baking.”

From a blood pressure standpoint, Horton said heart disease patients should also restrict salt intake.

“Most people take in way too much salt in their daily diets,” he said.

The American Heart Association offers a list of recipes that meet the criteria for heart-healthy food at heartcheckmark.org.

The NIH offers the following advice to help lower your chances of having heart disease or a stroke:

• Stop smoking or using other tobacco products.

• Manage your A1C, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

• Develop or maintain healthy lifestyle habits — be more physically active and learn ways to manage stress.

• Take medicines as prescribed by your doctor.

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