Controlling diabetes and heart disease
Having diabetes means you need to take control of your health.
This is especially true if you have heart disease or if you've
already had a heart attack. But there's good news. You can
greatly reduce your health risks by making a few simple changes
in your life.
When you have diabetes, your body may not produce enough insulin
(a hormone that controls blood sugar). Or, your body does not
respond to its own insulin. Either way, your blood sugar level
can get too high. If blood sugar is high, your arteries may
narrow. This limits blood flow to your body, including your
heart. Heart disease may then occur.
If you have diabetes, you need to adopt habits that will help
prevent or control heart disease. Work with your
WHY YOU NEED TO CONTROL YOUR BLOOD SUGAR
Your heart pumps
blood to all parts of your body. Your blood picks up oxygen from
the lungs and then travels back to the heart. From there,
oxygen-rich blood is pumped to the rest of your body through a
network of arteries.
To do its job, your heart also needs oxygen rich blood. Your
heart receives this blood from the coronary arteries. These
blood vessels wrap around the heart. Like all arteries in your
body, coronary arteries need to remain healthy and unblocked to
carry enough blood. Controlling your blood sugar helps keep them
High blood sugar may cause the walls of the arteries to become
rough. This allows fatty substances to build up in the walls of
an artery. More plaque may then form in these walls. Controlling
your blood sugar can help slow or prevent this damage.
RISKS YOU CAN CONTROL
Many things can put you at risk for heart disease or a heart
attack. Some factors, such as your age or a family history of
heart disease, can't be changed. But there are other risks you
Lower bad cholesterol. Cholesterol is a fat-like
substance in the blood. There are two kinds of cholesterol: LDL
("bad") and HDL ("good"). Lowering bad cholesterol decreases
your risk for heart
disease. HDL cholesterol helps clear LDL cholesterol from the
blood and arteries. Your healthcare team will test your
cholesterol levels. You will then learn what levels are healthy
Lower blood pressure. High blood pressure causes blood to
press too hard against artery walls. This wears down the lining
of the walls. And plaque may build up in them. By controlling
your blood pressure, you can limit your chances of plaque
buildup and decrease your risk of a heart attack.
Control blood sugar. By controlling your blood sugar, you
can help lower LDL cholesterol and other fatty substances. Also,
plaque may be less likely to build up in the walls of the
Lose excess weight. Excess weight makes it harder for
your body to use insulin. It
also makes your heart work harder. Losing even a few
pounds may help you control your blood sugar.
It can also reduce your
risk for heart disease or a heart attack.
Smoking damages the lining of your
arteries. This allows plaque to build up in the artery walls and
narrow the arteries. This can raise blood pressure and reduce
blood flow to the heart. If you smoke, quitting could save your
MONITORING YOUR RISKS
The only way to know how well you're reducing your heart health
risks is to monitor them. This means having checkups and lab
tests as often as needed and making some lifestyle changes.
To track your heart health, you need to visit your healthcare
team regularly. Your blood pressure and weight will be checked.
And you may have lab tests. Two standard blood tests measure
blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Tests to check your kidneys
may also be done. Try not to miss your visits. And be sure to
discuss each of your test results with your healthcare team.
Blood sugar lab tests
A hemoglobin Ale blood test measures your average blood sugar
levels over a 2- to 3-month period. This shows how well your
diabetes is being controlled. The test gives results over an
extended period, as opposed to daily blood sugar readings.
It also helps predict
risk for heart disease and other problems. You may have this
test every 3 to 6 months.
Testing total cholesterol
A blood test for total cholesterol measures LDL and HDL
cholesterol as well as triglycerides. Your doctor may order this
test about once a year.
If your LDL levels or triglycerides are too high, your doctor
may prescribe medication to help lower them. You'll also need to
make changes in your diet.
A WORD ON STRESS
Living with diabetes can be stressful. Stress may make your
blood sugar and blood pressure go up. And this can increase your
risk for heart disease. Stress may also make it less likely for
you to eat right and exercise.
You can't wish stress away. But you can find ways to manage it.
You don't have to deal with diabetes alone. Support from others
can help you take better care of yourself. Ask your family and
Listen to your feelings. This will help you work through
fear or anger.
Eat the same meals you eat. Your meal plan will be healthy
for family and friends, too.
Exercise with you. Exercise is good for everyone.
It strengthens the
heart and helps relieve stress.
Go with you to visits with your healthcare team. This will
help your loved ones learn what you need to
STEPS YOU CAN TAKE
Below are some
steps you can take to control your blood sugar and reduce your
risks for heart disease or a heart attack.
I will eat at least five servings of fresh fruits and
fresh or plain frozen vegetables a day.
I will read nutrition fact labels to choose products that
have the least fat, cholesterol and salt.
I will measure serving sizes and eat no more than the
daily servings noted in my meal plan.
Getting brisk exercise
I will walk for at least 10 minutes during my lunch hour.
Or, I will walk around the mall before I shop.
I will ride an exercise bike while watching TV.
I will sign up for an aerobics or dance class.
Caring for myself
I will check my blood sugar as often as directed by my
I will take all my medications each day, even if I feel
fine that day.
I will keep all my visits with
my healthcare team.
I will take time to relax each day.