Heart Disease and Diabetes
Heart disease describes a broad range of conditions that affect the heart. These conditions can include blood vessel diseases, such as coronary heart disease, heart rhythm problems, such as arrhythmias, and heart defects people are born with, to name a few. The term heart disease is often used interchangeably with the term cardiovascular disease .
However, cardiovascular disease is a more narrowly defined term which pertains to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain, or stroke. Other conditions, such as those that affect the heart’s muscle, valves, rhythm, are also considered forms of heart disease .
Sadly, heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, by claiming more than 647,457 lives and making up 23% of the deaths in 2017. However, this statistic only represents the deaths of these dreadful events, not necessarily occurrences. Indeed, more Americans suffer from cardiovascular system disorders, including hypertension (75 Million), heart attack (790,000), chest pain (7 Million), as well as individuals who have developed heart failure and had a non-fatal stroke [2-4].
For most of these disorders, the risk increases monumentally with age, yet heart disease is still the number three cause of death for people between twenty-five and forty-four years of age , which seems interesting because if you ask anyone in that age group the leading causes of death, heart disease would probably be far from first.
Although these diseases account for a large percentage of deaths in the United States, many of the underlying causes can be corrected by proper diet, exercise, and lifestyle  .
Common Factors in Heart Disease
Concerning the geographic distribution of deaths caused by heart disease, coronary heart disease deaths are the most prevalent in the narrow band of stated that span from New York to Oklahoma, with the highest rates being in the following states: Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Louisiana, West Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, New York, and Nevada . Further, men are at a higher risk of the condition than women, and that difference increases with age.
Black and White Americans both have a 23.8% chance of death from heart disease, with Asian and Native Americans having a 22.2% and 18.4% chance of dying from the disease, respectively.
The United States has higher than average mortality rates for diseases of the circulatory system, with only Austria and Germany having more significant statistics , which could be linked to high alcohol use. In the past, the highest incidence of and death rates from cardiovascular disease and stroke were in the Eastern European nations and Russia. This has been attributed to the then-higher rates of alcohol abuse, smoking, and very high levels of stress, especially during the Communist era, when industrial pollution was profoundly heavy in the larger cities.
Also, there is compelling evidence that pollution causes rapid, advanced atherosclerosis (plaquing of the arteries) and inflammation to the heart muscle, which can increase the effects of a bad diet, heavy smoking, and alcoholism.
When we examine the nations and groups with the highest rates of cardiovascular disease, there are specific, noticeable characteristics and factors which make an appearance, including diabetes or prediabetes, hypertension, high sugar intake, low intake of fresh vegetables, and low magnesium intake.
One of the macro-effects of all of these characteristics is increased, chronic inflammation, and when combined with the high-stress levels noted in these countries, rates of cardiovascular disease can rise rapidly .
Interestingly, too, China has seen an increase in the death rate from cardiovascular disease, even though the country typically has lower average cholesterol levels . One of the significant contributors to this rise, as noted by the World Health Organization, is smoking, which, in China, is extremely popular, and smoking increases inflammation, which, in turn, increases heart disease risk. Further, Chinese citizens are exposed to a high level or air pollution , which can further raise inflammation.
Diabetes and Prediabetes
Individuals with diabetes and prediabetes are at a dramatically increased predisposition to develop cardiovascular disease, as much as two to three times, with the highest being diabetic women   .
Many people think diabetes is simply a blood sugar disorder induced by not having enough insulin. However, the mechanisms behind the disease are much more complicated. The metabolism of carbohydrates in the human body is closely related to fat metabolism, which is why the leading cause for high triglyceride levels is a high intake of sugar or simple carbohydrates  . Further, triglycerides are the source of small, buoyant LDL particles, the type most closely related to atherosclerosis .
When insulin levels are high, and blood sugar levels are elevated, the body’s cells, tissues, and organs produce immense amounts of free radicals, mainly caused by elevated insulin which triggers inflammation . However, contrary to type-1 diabetes, where insulin levels are deficient, type-2 diabetes often shows a high level of insulin in the blood, because insulin is less efficient and cannot push glucose particles into the cells where they can be used. This condition is called insulin resistance.
Then, the cells send a signal to the pancreas, indicating they are still starving for glucose, so the pancreas releases more insulin, which, high levels of, can trigger systemic inflammation.
When this blood sugar balance is out of balance for an extended period, high levels of free radicals are created, which result in specific inflammatory compounds called advanced glycation end products (AGEs), and these compounds can cause severe damage to cells  .
Underlying Cause of Stroke and Heart Attack
Studies have shown that diabetes is closely associated to several diseases, including peripheral vascular disorders, ulcers, impotence, loss of vision, kidney failure, and higher rates of heart attack and stroke  . In most of these cases, an underlying, contributing factor is inflammation, which is brought on by disrupted metabolism of carbohydrates, which damages the inside lining of blood vessels, weakens veins, and makes them leaky. Damaged blood vessels, particularly microvessels, can cause many of these diabetes-associated conditions.
Mostly, all of the damage induced by diabetes stems from high levels of inflammation, increased levels of free radicals and lipid peroxidation products, and increased coagulation [clotting] of the blood.
It is a common belief that strokes and heart attacks are caused by blood vessels and arteries that are slowly blocked by a continuous buildup of arterial plaque. However, heart attacks and strokes can occur when the blood flowing through an artery suddenly clots, as well.
Studies have also shown that a deadly clot can form in an area with less constriction, rather than the areas with the most considerable plaque buildup. However, when these areas of plaque buildup become inflamed, the risk of a clot is the highest, but it is often not related to the size of the plaque.
This can help explain why some people with only moderate blood vessel constrictions can suffer a massive heart attack, while others with much more constriction do not.
Insulin Resistance Plays a Major Role in Cardiovascular Diseases
Chronic inflammation is the common link that can help explain why people with diabetes often have atherosclerosis, even though they may have normal cholesterol levels. Further, when people with these conditions eat food that contains a high level of fat, especially omega-6 fatty acids, the fat is quickly oxidized by free radicals, which is very inflammatory.
In a 2004 research review, researchers found that a majority of people who die of cardiovascular disease have type-2 diabetes .
Moreover, in a 2002 study, researchers investigated the occurrence of undiagnosed diabetes in patients with myocardial infarction [heart attack] . Out of the patients who died in the study, the researchers found that 40-45% of them either had type-2 diabetes or insulin resistance .
Additionally, it is estimated that one-fifth of people have undiagnosed diabetes or impaired fasting glucose, according to a 2005 study of the British population . Sadly, though, insulin resistance can be easily overlooked by physicians, even though it can be easily diagnosed with a glucose tolerance test.
Perhaps the most definite link to both cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance is abdominal obesity, and remember, even a person with a flat stomach can have abdominal obesity. Accordingly, studies have shown that weight loss can significantly reduce one’s risk of heart attack and stroke, reduce overall death risk, and increase overall life expectancy  .
A 2002 study even found that lifestyle modification, such as moderate exercise and reduced carbohydrate intake, can reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes by 60% , and even minor reductions in body fat can yield significant health benefits.
Therefore, a person with diabetes can promote their overall health, by lowering their blood sugar and insulin levels, protecting organs from free radical damage, and repairing the damage that has already been done.
Gratefully, there are natural supplements that may help to rectify many of the central metabolic issues that cause diabetes. They are all very potent antioxidants, and even more so than the vitamin antioxidants, they can neutralize some of the most damaging lipid peroxidation products, which do a great deal of damage in diabetes.
Research has shown that type-2 diabetes is frequently associated with both extracellular and intracellular magnesium deficiency, which is linked with insulin resistance . However, a medical doctor would rarely recommend a magnesium supplement for a patient with diabetes, and doctors will seldom add magnesium to the IV of a hospitalized diabetic patient.
Moreover, 2018 research claimed many medications that the patient may be taking, such as cardiovascular medication, can further increase the individual’s risk for magnesium depletion . Strangely, though, research has also shown that magnesium deficiency can cause a wide variety of features “including hypocalcaemia, hypokalaemia, and cardiac and neurological manifestations” . Therefore, the same medications that are prescribed to decrease cardiovascular disease risk can deplete magnesium levels, which can increase “cardiac manifestations.” Indeed, a paradox exists.
Further, a meta-analysis from 2015 found that “dietary magnesium intake is inversely associated with the prevalence of metabolic syndrome,”  and metabolic syndrome increases the risk of developing type-2 diabetes .
The combination of dietary changes, moderate exercise, and magnesium supplementation can powerfully reduce one’s risk of developing metabolic syndrome.
If you are interested in testing your magnesium levels, speak with your doctor about having them measure your RBC magnesium level. Since only one percent of the body’s magnesium is found in the blood and ninety-nine percent is found inside cells, blood tests can show normal blood magnesium levels even if the cells are depleted.
Alpha-Lipoic Acid Supplementation
A remarkable compound that plays a significant role in promoting healthy blood sugar levels and protecting organs and tissues from free radical damage is alpha-lipoic acid (ALA). The substance is found in every cell in the body and can protect cells from free radicals, even when it has been oxidized.
ALA also plays a role in controlling vitamin C and E by keeping them in their reduced and functional form. In their reduced form, the two vitamins undergo a biochemical process that makes the antioxidants more effective. Concerning blood sugar levels, ALA works with insulin to push glucose inside cells, which enhances cellular glucose uptake . Therefore, not only does ALA decrease the damage caused by free radicals, but it also promotes effective insulin action. Further, ALA has been shown to help with peripheral neuropathy, a severe complication of diabetes  . Typically, a good dose of ALA for people with diabetes can vary from 300 to 600 mg with each meal, depending on the severity of their condition.
Diet and Heart Health
Because inflammation is one of the main culprits for cardiovascular disease, naturally, the next step would be to examine dietary ways people can reduce inflammation, neutralize free radicals, increase blood flow and circulation, and reduce the risk of blood clotting – below are five, beneficial dietary habits.
- Avoid Omega-6 Fats
These fats have been regularly called heart-healthy fats; however, they are not. Sources of these fats include corn, safflower, peanut, and soybean oils. These oils are converted in the body into a chemical called prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), which causes widespread inflammation    . Also, check the salad dressing you are using because chances are it contains an omega-6 oil. You can easily make a homemade salad dressing using extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil with herbs, such as garlic and rosemary.
- Eat a Lot of Vegetables
Ten servings of vegetables a day is a very healthy amount. For loose vegetables, such as lettuce, one cup equals one serving, and for denser vegetables, such as broccoli, a half-cup is one serving. Studies have shown that for people under the age of 70, ten servings is optimal, and for people over 70, up to fifteen servings are beneficial. You can also blend the vegetables into a smoothie, which can also improve nutrient absorption. Certain vegetables are also nutrient dense, including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and kale. Also, by doing this, you increase fiber intake.
- Avoid White Breads and Processed Carbohydrates
In the article “Five Inflammation-Causing Foods,” we investigated the inflammatory effects of these processed carbohydrates. Also, processed carbohydrates have a higher glycemic index than unprocessed carbohydrates, and high-glycemic carbohydrates can raise blood sugar quicker than low-glycemic carbs, which is undesirable, especially for people with prediabetes and diabetes. These carbohydrates include biscuits, pancakes, and other baked goods with baking powder, which contains aluminum.
- Avoid Synthetic Sweeteners
Synthetic sweeteners, such as sucralose and aspartame, have been associated with a wide array of problems. For example, studies have linked sucralose to weight gain and an increased risk of diabetes and shown the compound to be harmful to bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract . Additionally, studies have associated aspartame to declined kidney function, adversely affected spatial cognition, and decreased insulin sensitivity, to name a few . Natural sweeteners, such as stevia, xylitol, and monk fruit, have demonstrated safety, and each of them has associated side benefits .
- Up Your Spice Intake
Countless studies have found that cinnamon can support healthy blood sugar levels  . Further, 2011 research investigated the neuroprotective effects of turmeric, red pepper, black pepper, licorice, clove, ginger, garlic, and coriander, and cinnamon and found that they target and decrease inflammatory pathways, which may be able to help prevent cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases .
Benefits of Green and White Tea
A specific compound in these teas, called catechins, have been shown to play a positive role in cardiovascular health, through reducing atherosclerosis risk through several synergistic mechanisms .
For example, catechins can help to prevent excessive iron buildup, reduce iron and copper toxicity, lipid peroxidation, and abdominal obesity, neutralize free radicals, promote healthy blood lipids, strengthen blood vessels, and control carbohydrate metabolism and absorption.
In a 2006, Japanese study, researchers investigated the associations between green tea consumption and all-cause and cause-specific mortality . The researchers noted the wide-ranging benefits of catechins in green tea. The study showed that drinking five to six cups of green tea a day reduced the risk of heart attack deaths by 26% and stroke fatalities by 51% .
A 2004 study investigated the effect of tea drinking on the risk of newly diagnosed hypertension . The researchers found that frequent tea drinkers were at a 46% decreased risk of developing hypertension, with those who drank one the higher quantity side at a 65% reduced risk .
Vitamin D and Cardiovascular Health
Vitamin D deficiency is not uncommon, especially in older demographics, and studies have shown that higher vitamin D levels were associated with increased cardiovascular health. Vitamin D can help to reduce inflammation, help heal infections, and tame autoimmunity.
In a 2012 study, researchers evaluated the association between vitamin D3 levels and health risks . Researchers in the study discovered that people with vitamin D3 levels of 18 to 23 ng/ml had a 74% increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome compared to those with what is the average level of 34 ng/ml .
People with low vitamin D3 levels also had greater waist circumference, higher triglycerides, elevated fasting glucose, and insulin resistance, all of which leads to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke . If you get your levels tested, it is best to get them checked every three months to keep track of your standards.
In this article, we examined the functions that underly cardiovascular disease and diabetes and how they are related. Insulin resistance plays a predominant role in both conditions but can be alleviated through proper diet and lifestyle. Further, magnesium, ALA, and vitamin D3 supplementation can be beneficial for people with these conditions, as well as the helpful dietary habits discussed.
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