How Does Sugar Affect Your Heart Health?

It has been commonly known that a high carbohydrate diet is not a healthy diet. Some reasons include a propensity to gain excess weight, more energy plunges throughout the day, and a struggle to feel full (because of the lack of more filling fats & proteins). However, research is proving links between high blood glucose (blood sugar levels) and cardiovascular disease. I’d like to share some of what’s being found with you, and talk about a few tips to avoid high blood glucose.

A couple statistics for you:

  • Only 20% of men aged 75 years and above with heart disease had “high cholesterol”. This shows that most people with heart disease were considered to have low cholesterol.
  • In a 2006 study covering 52 countries, the total number of deaths related to higher than optimum blood glucose was comparable to the number of deaths from smoking.
  • There is almost a linear progression in the risk for heart disease and death as blood glucose levels are increasing.


The presence of too much glucose in the blood can actually impair the normal functioning of endothelial cells. More specifically, high blood glucose can keep blood vessels from dilating, obviously making it harder for blood & oxygen to flow to and from the heart. This affect can happen even with people who only have slightly high blood glucose levels, and do not struggle with diabetes.


So what can we do to improve our blood glucose levels? I’d like to share a few tips that have worked well for me in my struggle with gestational diabetes, as I’ve learned to manage my own blood sugar throughout the day.

  1. You are more sensitive to carbohydrates in the morning than the evening. Avoid large amounts of carbohydrates in the earlier half of the day.
  2. Always eat a carb (fruit, piece of bread, etc.) with a protein and/or a fat. Example: an apple with almond butter. Cheese with crackers (preferably whole-grain). Protein & fat act as semi-trucks in your bloodstream, slowing down the absorption of blood sugar in your body, keeping it from spiking and then crashing.
  3. Begin to read food labels to find out how many servings of carbohydrate you eat at a time. 1/3 cup of cooked rice is 15 grams (1 serving). It’s incredibly easy to eat higher amounts of carbohydrates without thinking about it!
  4. Eat frequent, smaller meals throughout the day. Avoid large meals. This keeps your blood sugar levels more stable.
  5. Exercise! Move! Particularly if you just ate a large meal with more carbs than you probably needed! Even 20 minutes of walking can help regulate your blood sugar following a meal.
  6. Strength train. This builds sugar-storage cells in your muscles, which, in the long run, helps your body store excess blood sugar.

Contributed by Trainer Melissa