Diabetes and Heart Disease

Having diabetes increases your risk of developing hardened arteries, also known as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis makes your heart work harder to pump blood through your body, which creates high blood pressure. And high blood pressure, if not treated, can lead to several chronic conditions including blood vessel damage, stroke, heart failure, kidney failure, and heart attack.

That’s why it is just as important to control your blood pressure as it is to control your blood sugar. In addition, high blood pressure usually does not have any obvious symptoms, so it is known as the “silent killer.”

The average recommended blood pressure for someone with diabetes is 120/80 mm Hg, but your numbers may be different. Be sure to find out what your exact blood pressure should be and begin to monitor it frequently. If you do not own a home blood pressure monitor, check with your local pharmacy to see if there is monitor on site or ask if the pharmacist will regularly check your blood pressure.

There are several more steps you can take to reduce your risk for heart disease:

  • Keep your weight at a healthy level. If you are overweight, losing weight can help lower your blood pressure. It also may help reduce your cholesterol levels, which lowers your risk of atherosclerosis.

  • If you smoke, quit. People with diabetes who smoke double their risk of getting heart disease.

  • Cut back on red meat and processed foods. Try to eat whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. These are high in vitamins and fiber while low in calories and fats. You may also need to reduce your salt intake.

  • Exercise. Diet and exercise together can lower blood pressure and help you maintain control of your blood sugar levels. Exercise can be as simple as walking for 30-minutes a day.

  • Limit alcoholic drinks. Excessive amounts of alcohol can raise blood pressure to unhealthy levels.

  • Make regular visits to your doctor. He or she will give you a full examination and may prescribe medicine to help control your blood pressure. It is very important to follow all blood pressure medication instructions and take it exactly as prescribed—even if you feel fine.

Poorly controlled or uncontrolled high blood pressure, together with diabetes, is a risk factor for heart disease. Lower your risk by staying aware of your blood pressure, keeping it under control, and working with your doctor or pharmacist on lifestyle changes that can help to lower your blood pressure.