For Your Sweetheart: Local resident raises awareness about diabetes link to heart disease

Rancho Santa Fe Attack’s Malcolm Tovey is taking part in For Your Sweetheart, a national campaign to raise awareness about the critical link between type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Tovey, a type 2 diabetic, was unaware of the link until he discovered he had two blocked arteries and would likely die from heart disease if he did not make a healthy lifestyle change. The For Your Sweetheart campaign, which was developed and sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly and Company, also encourages people with type 2 diabetes to learn more about their risk factors for the sake of their “Sweethearts,” the people they love.

“Ever since I found out about the link between diabetes and heart disease, I’ve done everything to make positive lifestyle changes,” said Tovey, who received assistance from his own Sweethearts, daughter Briana and girlfriend Angelyn. “I’m very careful about my diet, I’ve increased my exercise and dropped 50 pounds.”

Due to the complications associated with diabetes, such as high blood sugar, high blood pressure and obesity, cardiovascular disease is a major complication and the leading cause of death associated with diabetes. People with diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than people without diabetes. Approximately 50 percent of deaths in people with type 2 diabetes worldwide and approximately two-thirds of deaths in people with type 2 diabetes in the U.S. are caused by cardiovascular disease.

When Tovey looks back, pre-diagnosis, there weren’t that many overt signs that he was diabetic. He sometimes lacked energy and had gained weight but he led a very active lifestyle — he has been with Rancho Santa Fe Attack soccer for 20 years and is the current director of coaching, he’s a PE teacher at The Nativity School and the varsity soccer coach at The Bishop’s School.

“Diabetes is a silent killer, it just creeps up on you slowly and you don’t even realize it’s happening,” Tovey said. “When I was diagnosed, it was quite a shock.”

Tovey said he didn’t take his diagnosis seriously and he didn’t have the information he needed to make the correct choices. It was hard for him to grasp that he was a diabetic — after all, he was an athletic coach and teacher and he exercised nearly seven times a week. He ignored the diagnosis and didn’t do the right things to take care of himself.

“That was my first mistake, I was completely in denial,” Tovey said.

About 13 years ago, Tovey was in the hospital for a broken leg when the doctors discovered he had two blocked arteries and would have to undergo an immediate cardiovascular surgery to put in stents. The blocked arteries were attributed to complications from his type 2 diabetes. He had plenty of time in the hospital to think about the choices he’d made as he had to wait for three days after the stents were put in before surgery to repair his broken leg.

“The broken leg may have saved my life,” Tovey said.

The experience made him completely re-evaluate the way he treated his disease and motivated him to take his health and wellbeing seriously. But he didn’t do it alone.

“My daughter has been very influential in helping me,” Tovey said of Briana. “I have a sweet tooth and I call the little princess the fridge police.”

Both Briana and Angelyn help keep him on track, unhealthy food never lasts long in the household. Tovey said his Sweethearts took the diabetes diagnosis seriously from the start and encouraged him to speak with his doctor to get more educated — “You don’t want to mess with them,” he said. This year Briana and Angelyn purchased a 24-hour blood glucose monitor that registers Malcolm’s blood sugar online. If the results get too high, alerts can be sent to his family members.

“They’ve been a wonderful support mechanism,” Tovey said. “External support is massive but you really have to intrinsically buy into the program yourself for it to be truly effective.”

The reformed chocoholic said as much as possible he now makes the right food choices and, as a coach and PE teacher, works to share that message with his young players and students. With the For Your Sweetheart campaign, he wants to educate even more people, to raise awareness of the risks and to encourage people to talk to their healthcare providers. The sooner people know the risks, the sooner they can take steps to reduce those risks, he said.

“If I had known about the link between heart disease and diabetes I would’ve been more engaged in working with my doctor from the beginning,” Tovey said. “My reaction when I was diagnosed was embarrassing. If you are diabetic, know about the link to heart disease and get educated early on to get on the right track. Diabetes doesn’t have to be a death sentence.”

Visit ForYourSweetHeart.com to take the Heart You Quiz and sign up to get a customized discussion guide to team up with your doctor and your sweetheart to learn about heart disease risk. For everyone who signs up, Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly and Company will donate $1 to split equally among eight participating patient advocacy organizations.”

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