Diabetes and Heart Attack Risk: What’s the Connection?

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Diabetes and Heart Attack Risk: What's the Connection?

By Stacey Feintuch

Understanding your health risks is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. So, if you have diabetes, you need to understand what this means for your heart attack and stroke risk.

Yes, there is a connection between diabetes and heart attack and stroke risk. And this connection is something you need to be aware of and discuss with your health care provider.

About 68 percent of people age 65 and older with diabetes die from some form of heart disease, and 16 percent die of stroke. In fact, adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to die from heart disease than adults without diabetes.

Diabetes can be managed, but even when glucose levels are under control, you’re still at an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Those with diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes, may have conditions like high blood pressure, poor cholesterol levels, obesity and physical inactivity that contribute to their risk for developing cardiovascular disease.

The good news: there are steps you can take, even with diabetes, to help prevent heart attack and stroke. Here are some steps you can take.

Try new therapeutic areas for heart attack/stroke prevention

Many types and combinations of drugs are used to prevent heart attacks and strokes. New therapies are coming on the market all the time. Your health care provider will decide the best treatment for your situation.

Know your risk

People with diabetes are more likely to have risk factors that increase the chances of having heart disease or stroke, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Other risk factors include smoking, kidney disease or a family history of early heart disease. Knowing your risk factors can help you and your health care team decide on the best treatment plan for you.

Don’t smoke

Not smoking is especially important for people with diabetes. Both smoking and diabetes narrow blood vessels, so your heart has to work harder. It puts you at higher risk for heart disease and stroke. If you do currently smoke, it’s not a lost cause. Quitting lowers your risk for heart attack and stroke. Plus, you’ll have an easier time exercising an your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels will improve.

Manage health conditions

Health issues like high blood pressure or high cholesterol put you at greater risk for a heart attack. Many conditions can be prevented or managed by eating better, getting active, losing weight and quitting tobacco. Also be sure to take all medication as directed.

Break a sweat

Get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week. Plus, do a moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least two days a week for even more health benefits.

Maintain a healthy diet

Consume vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, lean animal proteins and fish. Limit processed foods and sweetened drinks. Eat foods low in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol and ones high in fiber to help prevent high cholesterol. Minimize salt consumption to help lower your blood pressure.

Watch your weight

Stay at a healthy weight for you; being overweight or obese increases your risk for heart disease. Lose weight if you’re overweight or obese. Consume fewer calories and move more. Check your body mass index (BMI) to determine if your weight is in a healthy range. If you need help, talk with your healthcare team about a weight-loss plan.

This resource was created with support from Sanofi, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Novartis.


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