Jo Ann Perreault knows what it takes to live a heart-healthy lifestyle while living with diabetes. A clinical dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Broward Health Coral Springs, Perreault was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes 25 years ago. She can identify with her diabetic patients on a deeper level and help them navigate this chronic condition because of her personal experience.
One of the issues Perreault addresses is the relationship between diabetes and an increased risk for cardiovascular conditions. According to the National Institute of Health, over time, high blood glucose from diabetes can damage blood vessels and the nerves that control the heart and blood vessels. People with diabetes tend to develop heart disease at a younger age and are nearly twice as likely to die from heart disease or stroke.
"I call it the vascular highway," Perreault said. ";As blood travels across the body of a diabetic person, sugar is keeping red blood cells from doing their job properly and it can have negative effects in the long run.";
To keep her heart health in check, Perreault sticks to the same advice she offers her patients, which involves regular exercise and modifying eating habits.
"Exercise is greatly important," said Perreault. "Moving our bodies - doing things we enjoy to release endorphins, such as dancing and walking, and also muscle strengthening - is key."
When it comes to nutrition, she recommends sticking to the "three S's: small portions, [eating] slowly and savoring food."
Exercising and eating moderately can help improve blood sugar control and reduce the effects on the cardiovascular system.
Perreault sees being diagnosed with diabetes as "an opportunity to be healthy."" Helping others with diabetes has become her life's passion and she feels fortunate to be able to provide patients with the proper tools to self-manage the condition.
As her glucose monitor beeps, she takes a look at the screen on the device and reads aloud: "One hundred one. Spot on!"