Having diabetes means you are more likely to develop certain cardiovascular diseases. People with diabetes are also more likely to have certain conditions or risk factors that increase the chances of having heart disease or stroke such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol. If you have diabetes, you can protect your heart and health by managing your blood glucose level as well as your blood pressure and cholesterol.
What increases my chances of heart disease or stroke if I am diabetic?
If you have diabetes, it is important to stop smoking because both smoking and diabetes narrow blood vessels. Smoking also increases your chances of developing other long-term problems such as lung disease. Smoking damages the blood vessels in your legs and increase the risk of lower leg infections, ulcers, and amputation
- High blood pressure
If you have high blood pressure , your heart must work harder to pump blood. High blood pressure can strain your heart, damage blood vessels, and increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, eye problems, and kidney problems.
- Abnormal Cholesterol Levels
Cholesterol is a type of fat produced by your liver and found in your blood. You have two kinds of cholesterol in your blood: LDL and HDL.
LDL; often called "bad" cholesterol, can build up and clog your blood vessels. High levels of LDL cholesterol raise your risk of developing heart disease.
- Obesity and Belly Fat
Being overweight or obese can affect your ability to manage your diabetes and increase your risk for many health problems such as heart disease and high blood pressure. If you are overweight,a healthy eating plan with reduced calories often will lower your glucose levels and reduce your need for medications.
Excess belly fat around your waist, even if you are not overweight, can raise your chances of developing heart disease.
You have excess belly fat if your waist measures:
- more than 40 in. if you are a man
- more than 35 in. if you are a woman
- Family History of Heart Disease
A family history of heart disease may also add to your chances of developing heart disease. If one or more of your family members had a heart attack before age 50, you may have an even higher chance of developing heart disease.
How can I lower my chances of a heart attack or stroke if I have diabetes?
Taking care of your diabetes is important to help you take care of your heart. You can lower your chances of having a heart attack or stroke by taking the following steps to manage your diabetes to keep your heart and blood vessels healthy.
1. Know your ABCs
A is for the A1C test. The A1C test shows your average blood glucose level over the past 3 months. This is different from the blood glucose checks that you do everyday. The higher your A1C number, the higher your blood glucose levels have been during the past 3 months. High levels of blood glucose can harm your heart, blood vessels, kidneys, feet, and eyes.
B is for blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force of your blood against the wall of your blood vessels. If your blood pressure gets too high, it makes your heart work too hard. High blood pressure can cause a heart attack or stroke and damage your kidneys and eyes.
C is for cholesterol. Too much LDL in your blood can cause a heart attack or stroke. HDL helps remove the “bad” cholesterol from your blood vessels.
S is for stop smoking. Not smoking is especially important for people with diabetes because both smoking and diabetes narrow blood vessels, so your heart will have to work harder.
If you quit smoking:
- you will lower your risk for heart attack, stroke, nerve disease, kidney disease, eye disease, and amputation
- your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels may improve
- your blood circulation will improve
- you will have an easier time being physically active
Your health care team will provide you with the best goals for your A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol and what you can do to reach these goals.
2. Develop and maintain healthy lifestyle Habits
- follow a healthy eating plan
- make physical activity part of your routine
- stay at or get to a healthy weight
- get enough sleep
3. Physical Activity
If your busy schedule does not allow you to exercise for a 30-minute period during the day, you have the option to break it up into bouts of 10 minutes or more.
For example, you might take a brisk 10-minute walk after each meal. Or you could try doing 15 minutes of aerobics in the morning before work and another 15 minutes when you get home.
Below are some examples of aerobic activities:
- brisk walking (outside or inside on a treadmill)
- bicycling/stationary cycling indoors
- swimming or water aerobics
- playing tennis
- stair climbing
- ice skating or roller skating
- cross country skiing
- meet your A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol goals.
- reduce your risk of blood clots, heart attack, or stroke
treat angina or chest pain that is often a symptom of heart disease (Angina can also be an early symptom of a heart attack)
- your symptoms
- your medical and family history
- how likely you are to have heart disease
- a physical exam
- results from tests and procedures
- weakness or numbness of your face, arm, or leg on one side of your body
- confusion, or trouble talking or understanding
- dizziness, loss of balance, or trouble walking
- trouble seeing out of one or both eyes
- sudden severe headache