People with diabetes are up to four times more likely to have heart disease than people without it. The good news is diabetes is considered a controllable risk factor for cardiovascular issues. Discover ways to manage diabetes and ward off heart problems to stay healthy for years to come.

  • The number one cause of death and disability among people with type 2 diabetes is heart disease and stroke. People with diabetes are prone to having conditions that contribute to cardiovascular problems such as abnormal cholesterol, high blood pressure and poorly controlled blood sugar. Other risk factors include smoking, obesity and lack of physical activity. Elevated risk factors of heart disease are referred to as the metabolic syndrome. An effective diabetes self-management program may help prevent heart disease.
  • Insulin resistance is also linked to a lipid disorder associated with high triglycerides and abnormal cholesterol levels. Unhealthy cholesterol levels can include high LDL (bad cholesterol) and low HDL (good cholesterol) as well as elevated triglycerides. Triglycerides over 150 mg/dL are considered a risk factor for heart disease. Try to cut down on the saturated fat found in red meat and full fat dairy products. Keep the cholesterol in your diet to less than 300 milligrams daily by eating no more than 3 egg yolks per week. Reduce or eliminate Trans fat in your diet, which is typically found in packaged foods- boxes and bags.
  • Studies show a connection between high blood pressure and the insulin resistance associated with diabetes type 2. If you have diabetes and hypertension, your risk of cardiovascular disease is doubled. Elevated blood pressure for people with diabetes has been changed to over 140 mm Hg for systolic blood pressure and over 80 mm Hg for diastolic blood pressure. Watch out for elevated fasting blood glucose levels as well as post prandial readings. Measure your blood pressure at home by using a blood pressure monitor and test your blood sugar levels regularly. Keep a logbook or spreadsheet of the results and report fluctuating blood pressure and blood sugar levels to your doctor.
  • Work on bad habits such as smoking or drinking alcohol in excess. Find ways to reduce or quit these habits with help from support groups, therapy or medications. Whether or not you have diabetes, smoking increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. Smoking and diabetes can narrow your blood vessels which doubles your cardiovascular risk. Smoking may also decrease blood flow in your legs called peripheral vascular disease and may make the possible effects of nerve damage or neuropathy worse. Explore ways to quit smoking such as acupuncture, hypnosis and other methods that have proven to be effective.
  • Obesity is associated with insulin resistance and is a major risk factor for heart disease. Losing weight can decrease insulin concentration and improve cardiovascular risk. Obesity is also linked to hypertension. Central obesity indicates that you have extra weight around your waist. Women with a waist measurement of over 35 inches and men with a waist circumference of over 40 inches can have increased risk of diabetes or heart disease. Shedding just 10 percent of your current body weight can make a major difference. Adopt a heart healthy diet from a nutritionist or dietitian. Opt for high fiber foods to lower cholesterol such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Include foods such as oatmeal, oat bran, dried peas and beans.
  • A sedentary lifestyle is a risk factor for heart disease. Losing weight and exercising can delay or prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes as well as lower blood pressure and help minimize the risk for heart disease. Include physical activity in your daily routine such as walking, gardening and yoga. Take an aerobics class, go running or play sports with the kids. Choose the stairs over the elevator and park further away from the store. The key is to keep moving and get 30 minutes of exercise at least 5 times a week.
  • Talk to your health care team about doing periodic tests to find out whether you have developed any of the risk factors associated with heart disease. Controlling these risk factors can help you avoid heart disease. Discuss genetics with your doctor. If one or more members of your family had a heart attack at an early age (before 65 for women and before 55 for men), you may be at increased risk. Ask your doctor if you should take a daily aspirin to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

While people with diabetes have an increased risk of getting heart disease, you can help prevent it. You have the power to develop good habits as well as to quit bad ones. Take control of your health now to feel your best and ward off cardiovascular risks.