How can I prevent heart disease if I have diabetes?


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.

If you have diabetes, do your best to keep your cholesterol levels and blood pressure under control to lower heart disease risk. People with diabetes should aim for low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels of less than 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) and a blood pressure of less than 130/80 (ideally, less than 120/80). Also keep your blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible. However, tight blood sugar control doesn't protect against heart attack as much as it helps to prevent other complications of diabetes, such as eye and kidney disease. Ask your doctor for a specific goal, as the target level depends on the blood test used to assess it.

Like everyone at risk, practice a healthy lifestyle: watch your weight, eat a heart-healthy diet, and exercise regularly. Talk to your doctor about taking a cholesterol-lowering statin if you can't achieve your cholesterol goal through lifestyle changes, if you already have heart disease, or if you have one or more substantial risk factors for heart disease, such as being over age 55 or having elevated levels of C-reactive protein. You may also need one or more drugs to help you keep your blood pressure in check.

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.

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, 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.

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.

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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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.