If you or someone you know has diabetes, you have probably been told that high blood glucose levels can cause many different complications. These include blood vessel damage, heart disease and stroke. Healthcare providers tell people with diabetes to keep their glucose levels as healthy as possible to prevent complications. But good blood glucose control is not always enough to keep people with diabetes healthy. Thanks to new research, we may now know why this is.
Researchers from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid in Spain looked at artery cells to see how they responded to high amounts of glucose. This helped them see what happens to your heart and blood vessels when your blood glucose levels spike.
Surprisingly, they found that glucose does not damage blood vessels by itself. For glucose to cause problems in the cells of your heart and blood vessels, there has to be inflammation. This means that without inflammation, diabetes might not lead to heart or blood vessel disease.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is an important process in your body. It’s how your immune system protects you from bacteria, viruses, allergens, and certain chemicals. Inflammation helps stop you from getting sick, and helps you heal from wounds.
But too much inflammation can be a bad thing. Some conditions, like arthritis, asthma, psoriasis, and Crohn’s disease, are caused by too much inflammation. Even if you don’t have these conditions, chronic inflammation can lead to:
- Some cancers
- Brain diseases like Alzheimer’s
- Heart disease
This is why it’s so important to keep inflammation low most of the time. Not only can you prevent or delay these serious conditions, you might also sleep better, have less pain, and lose weight more easily.
Tips for keeping inflammation low
The Spanish researchers said that the best ways to lower inflammation if you have diabetes is to lose weight if you need to, and get more exercise. These lifestyle changes can improve your health in many areas. Here are a few more ways you can lower inflammation:
- Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables every day.
- Make time for deep breathing exercises or meditation to reduce stress.
- Eat less omega-6 (from margarine, baked goods and fried food) and more omega-3 fats (from fish, nuts, avocados, and olive oil).
- Get plenty of high-quality sleep.
- Eat more foods that are high in fiber, like whole grains.
- Try to eat turmeric, basil, chilies, and nutmeg regularly. These spices have been shown to lower inflammation.
If you have diabetes, it’s still very important to keep your blood glucose levels under control. However, if you find that healthy levels are not enough to keep you feeling great, know that this is normal. Try the suggestions in this list, and talk to your healthcare provider about other steps you can take to lower inflammation.