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How can I prevent heart disease if I have diabetes?

Keeping cholesterol and blood pressure under control is key to preventing heart disease when you have diabetes. In this video, Ronald Tamler, MD, clinical director of the Mount Sinai Diabetes Center, explains.

Stacy Wiegman, PharmD
Pharmacy Specialist

You can prevent heart disease even if you have diabetes by adopting good lifestyle habits. The first step? If you smoke, stop. Second, meet with a dietitian to create a meal plan that is high in fiber, low in saturated fat and trans fat, and that may help you lose weight if you need to. Try to exercise at least 30 minutes every day and build more activity into your day by using the stairs instead of the elevator, avoiding drive-throughs and parking further from your destination so you can walk more. Keeping your diabetes under control will also help minimize your risks for heart disease. Consult your doctor for more ways you can keep your heart healthy.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

It's clear that diabetes is as destructive to our health as hot dog–eating champ Kobayashi is to a plate of frankfurters. In fact, diabetes and its effects can steal one-third of your life.

Luckily, if you can do three major things—control your blood pressure, walk 30 minutes a day, and keep your blood sugar within a narrow range—you'll practically eliminate the cardiovascular risk associated with diabetes.

And that makes diabetes, though one of the scariest diseases of all, one of the most controllable. You can often manage it yourself without oral medication, and without having to shoot yourself with insulin, if you know the steps to take.

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Diabetes, or high blood sugar, is a serious disorder that also drastically raises a woman's risk for heart disease. About 75 percent of women with diabetes die of some type of cardiovascular disease.

You can lower your risk by keeping your blood sugar as close to normal as possible. Prediabetes is a condition that millions of Americans have. It's not full-blown diabetes but it can develop into it. Exercising, losing weight and, if necessary, taking medication can protect you.

One in three women will die of heart disease compared to one in nine women dying of breast cancer. Forty percent of heart attacks result in death. Diabetes is a powerful risk factor for heart disease in women. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women with diabetes. Women with diabetes are 2 times as likely to have a second heart attack and 4 times more likely to have heart failure than women without diabetes.

Many women with type 2 diabetes already have heart disease when they are diagnosed or have many of the risk factors such as high lipids levels, high blood pressure, abdominal obesity and abnormalities in blood vessel function. Women with type 1 diabetes can develop heart disease when they are young. Women with diabetes are not only at greater risk for heart disease, but also experience more adverse outcomes.

Here's what you can do to protect yourself:

  • Don't smoke.
  • Control your blood pressure.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat a low-fat diet.
  • Take care of diabetes.
  • Be aware of chest pain.
  • Know your family history.

Diabetes is a huge risk factor for heart disease. Taking good care of your diabetes and keeping those sugars under control can really help reduce the risk of heart disease.

If you have a family history of diabetes or a history of gestational diabetes, you are at high risk of developing diabetes yourself. Regular exercise, eating healthfully and maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your risk, or at least delay the development of diagnosis.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.