Diabetes puts people at greater risk for heart disease

Did you know that people with type 2 diabetes are two to six times more likely to die from a heart attack or stroke? Scary, isn’t it?

People with diabetes are at greater risk for heart disease because, over time, high blood sugar can damage blood vessels and nerves that control the heart. The longer you have diabetes, the higher your chances are to develop heart disease. And those with diabetes tend to develop heart disease at a younger age than people without diabetes.

In adults with type 2 diabetes, the most common causes of death are heart disease and stroke. You are still at risk for a heart attack or stroke even if you are at your A1C goal. The good news is that the steps you take to manage your diabetes also help lower your chances of having heart disease or stroke.

Other factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high triglycerides (blood fat), family history of heart disease, excess weight and a sedentary lifestyle contribute to a the risk for heart disease or stroke. You can’t change your family history, your age, or the fact that you have diabetes.

Lower your risk

You can decrease your risk for heart attack or stroke by impacting these other risk factors. Smoking, as well as diabetes, narrows blood vessels. Quitting smoking can lower your risk for heart attack, stroke, nerve and kidney disease, eye disease and amputation. Blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels may also improve. Your circulation will improve and you may have an easier time being physically active. Start by calling the national QUITLINE at 1-800-QUITNOW (1-800-784-8669) or go to smokefree.gov.

Managing your blood pressure helps reduce the strain on your heart to pump blood. High blood pressure also increases your risk for eye and kidney problems. The American Diabetes Association recommends maintaining blood pressure at 140/80 or lower.

Cholesterol can build up and clog blood vessels. High levels of LDL cholesterol and high triglycerides raise your risk for developing heart disease. You can lower your cholesterol and triglycerides by eating a lower fat diet, choosing unsaturated fats over saturated fats, and eliminating transfat. Many people with diabetes also take a cholesterol-lowering medication.

Being overweight can affect your ability to manage your diabetes as well as increase your risk for heart disease and high blood pressure. Meal plans that includes a variety of foods, whole grains, fruits and vegetables and getting a moderate amount of physical activity most days of the week can help you manage your weight. A goal of 5 percent to 7 percent weight loss is reasonable and will yield healthful results

High levels of blood glucose can harm your heart, blood vessels, kidneys, feet and eyes. Maintaining A1C at target helps decrease your risk of complications. A1C goal for most people with diabetes is below 7 percent. Ask your health care team what your goal for A1C, blood pressure and cholesterol should be.

Lastly, get enough sleep. Manage your stress levels. Have some fun. Laugh. These can help you feel better and keep you healthier.