My husband and I often joke about all the diseases we have in our families combined, but we also realize the gravity of the situation and try to align our lifestyle with this knowledge.
As a child, I saw my grandfather live with diabetes and its various complications. But this is a story not just of my family but of many families of South Asian descent. Having a sweet tooth is considered a common trait, and the love of biryani, nihari, garlic naans and pulao runs in our veins as South Asians.
However, it is important to consider the various health risks we face due to family history and lifestyle choices. Almost 2 million Canadians of South Asian descent are twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared to those with Caucasian European ancestry. While this number itself is shocking, another alarming fact from research by Diabetes Canada shows that this group is more likely to die of complications from diabetes at an earlier age.
That’s why it’s so important for Canadians with diabetes to pause and think about their health, especially how their diabetes can put them at risk for other conditions, most commonly heart disease. Research has shown that approximately one in two people with type 2 diabetes will die of heart disease, yet many Canadians of South Asian descent with diabetes are unaware of the heart-related risks their diabetes brings.
There is a worrisome knowledge deficit among South Asian Canadians with type 2 diabetes, as 91 per cent feel they are knowledgeable about their disease management, but 60 per cent do not know their diabetes alone significantly increases the risk of heart attack, heart failure and stroke. Forty-eight per cent of South Asian Canadians with type 2 diabetes believe there are no medications that control blood sugar levels and heart disease. However, there are medications that – along with diet and exercise – have been proven to lower the risk of dying from problems related to the heart and blood vessels.
These health conversations are important because knowledge of the connection between diabetes and heart disease can be life-saving. Research shows that 81 per cent of South Asian Canadians wish they knew about this connection earlier. The good news is that there are simple things that can protect your heart health, while still enjoying many of the things you love.
If you have type 2 diabetes and a history of heart disease, controlling your blood sugar alone may not be enough. But equipped with more knowledge and recent advances in treatment, we can reduce the number of people with diabetes who die from heart-related conditions.
Your heart and health is important. If you have type 2 diabetes, speak with your doctor about steps you can take to help manage your risk of heart disease. Visit myheartmatters.ca to use the Risk Assessment Tool and learn more about how you can protect your heart health if you have type 2 diabetes.
Disclaimer: This content was sponsored by the Boehringer Ingelheim-Lilly Canada Diabetes Alliance. All opinions are my own.