Heart Health and Diabetes

What You Can Do for Your Heart If You Have Diabetes

If you have any of the risk factors listed above, work to change them. If you smoke, quit. If you're obese, lose some weight. Do your best to follow a heart-healthy lifestyle. You and your whole family will benefit. Work with your health-care team on the following:

  • Keep your blood glucose levels as near to normal as possible. High levels of blood glucose may damage large blood vessels over time. High levels of blood insulin may also cause harm for people with type 2 diabetes. Keeping your blood glucose levels in the normal range may prevent or delay blood vessel damage.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking narrows blood vessels over time. It can also increase the levels of fats in your blood. Just by stopping smoking, you can lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, and blood vessel disease. Quitting can be very hard. Get the support of your health care team, a stop-smoking program, and your family.
  • Keep your blood pressure under control. High blood pressure can be an early warning sign of blood vessel damage. The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have your doctor check. You may be able to lower your blood pressure by losing weight and cutting salt from your diet. If your blood pressure stays high, your doctor can prescribe medication that will help. Some blood pressure medications can affect blood glucose control. You and your doctor will need to work together to find the right medication for you.
  • Keep your blood fat levels in the good range. High levels of blood fats can damage your blood vessels. The most infamous blood fat - cholesterol - has gotten a lot of notice. If your cholesterol level is too high, you and your health care team may try to bring it down by changing your eating and exercise habits. The simplest rule of thumb is to eat less saturated fat. (those that are solid at room temperature). If you can't lower your blood fat level by diet alone, your doctor may prescribe medication to help.
  • See your doctor regularly. Your doctor will keep tabs on your blood pressure, blood fat levels, and overall blood glucose control. Your blood pressure and blood fat levels can change. The only way to know what's going on is to have your doctor check. With a glycated hemoglobin blood test, your doctor can get a picture of your average blood glucose control over the past 2 or 3 months. If any problems show up, you and your doctor can act right away to improve things.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet. The foods you eat affect your blood glucose levels and those all-important blood fat levels. Your diet and exercise routine also help keep your weight in a good range for you. Healthier eating will steer your family into the best eating habits for life.
  • Discuss your exercise program with your doctor. Regular aerobic exercise (such as walking or swimming), which uses your heart, lungs, and large muscles, can improve your blood fat levels and your overall cardiovascular fitness.

Research shows that taking aspirin may help prevent heart attacks in people with diabetes. Taking aspirin should be considered for people who have had a heart attack as well as for those who have not had a heart attack. Do not start taking aspirin without your doctor's OK. People with aspirin allergy, bleeding tendency, clinically active hepatic disease, or on certain medicines should not take aspirin. Use of aspirin has not been studied in people with diabetes less than 30 years of age.

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