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I Reduced My Sugar Intake and Drastically Changed My Heart Health. Here’s How.

August 28, 2023
woman refusing sugary donut

Heart disease and type 2 diabetes run in my family. Several close family members have been living with type 2 diabetes (T2D) for a long time, and both of my parents suffered from heart issues. I have been worried about it all of my life.

Obesity also runs in my family and once I hit my 40s, I started putting on more weight. I was working a desk job and sitting all day. Office doughnuts weren’t helping the situation, and I wasn’t finding a lot of support at home. We had gotten into the habit of eating heavy foods each night, like burgers and fries or cheesy pasta. I needed to make a change but wasn’t finding the motivation.

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Looking for an answer

I tried a few weight loss programs and kept an eye on my cholesterol and blood sugar levels, always worried about diabetes being right around the corner. I had trouble finding a program that worked for me. I tried a few but cutting calories made me hungry all the time, which made me want to cave in and eat.

Then one day I had some blood work done as part of my yearly physical. I learned that my triglycerides were high at 283 mg/dL. My HDL “good” cholesterol was 50, which was fine but not spectacular. My A1c, which is a measure of my blood sugar numbers over the past few months, was 0.1% away from prediabetes. I tested my fasting blood sugar the next morning and it was 108: a prediabetes number. It was time to do something about my health.

A turning point

I learned about a program for people with type 2 diabetes called Virta Health. It’s also for people like me who are at risk for T2D and want to lose weight. Being a science lover, I spent some time reading up about the program, the scientific research behind its process, and all of its success stories. I decided it was for me.

I joined Virta Health and absolutely love it. In the program, I have a health coach and a doctor keeping an eye on me, and there’s a community forum filled with helpful “Virtans” sharing tips and ideas. They also share their success stories. It’s inspiring because I can’t go one day without hearing someone talk about how they reversed their diabetes, got off all medications, lost weight, and feel better than they have in years.

I cut out sugar and starchy foods from my diet and focused on whole foods like meat, vegetables, and fat for satiety. An average lunch for me now is a mini charcuterie board or a salad: lots of satisfying protein and fat. For dinner, I’ll often have a steak with green beans or grilled chicken wings with fresh veggies and homemade ranch for dipping.

Related: I Reversed My Pre-Diabetes Diagnosis in Three Months: Here’s How

Turning my health around

While I’m still in the program, I have already seen a drastic change in my health. My blood sugar numbers have stabilized. I used to be a regular rider on the blood sugar roller coaster. I would eat pasta or dessert, and my blood sugar would spike and then crash, leaving me hungry and cranky. With my new way of eating, I have steady blood sugar all day long.

I also saw a drastic change in my heart health. I learned that high triglycerides are a result of too many carbohydrates, and when I cut carbs, I saw a major change. My triglycerides went from a whopping 283 to a healthy 95. In addition, my HDL cholesterol went from an okay 53 to a spectacular 83. My doctor told me that I have drastically reduced my risk for heart disease. That was great to hear!

With this new health program, I rarely eat anything that is packaged or processed. My diet is mostly made up of whole foods that my ancestors would recognize. I have more energy, my mood is better, my weight is dropping, and I no longer worry about diabetes and heart disease.

Lessons learned

Something I’ve learned: with diabetes in my family, my genes can’t really handle too many carbohydrates. Some people can, but I can’t. I only eat carby foods about once a week, but that’s fine with me because all of the foods I can eat are delicious.

Between being able to lose weight, maintain stable blood sugar, and have better HDL cholesterol and triglyceride numbers, I feel good that I’m heading down a better path than I was before.

Read next: 5 Worst Habits for Your Heart, Says Science

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