Health Information and Tools > Patient Care Handouts >  Learning About the Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke With Diabetes
Facebook Tweet Share

Main Content

Learning About the Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke With Diabetes

How are diabetes, heart attack, and stroke connected?

For some people, diabetes can cause problems that increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Many things can lead to a heart attack or stroke. These include high blood sugar, insulin resistance, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Lifestyle and genetics may also play a part.

But here's the good news: The things you're doing to stay healthy with diabetes also help your heart and blood vessels. That means eating healthy foods, quitting smoking, getting exercise, and staying at a healthy weight.

What increases your risk for heart attack and stroke?

When you have diabetes, your risk for heart attack and stroke is even higher if you have:

  • High blood pressure. It pushes blood through the arteries with too much force. Over time, this damages the walls of the arteries.
  • High cholesterol. It causes the buildup of a kind of fat inside the blood vessel walls. This buildup can lower blood flow to the heart muscle and raise your risk for having a heart attack or stroke.
  • Kidney damage. It shares many of the risk factors for heart attack and stroke (such as high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol).

How do you keep your heart healthy when you have diabetes?

Managing your diabetes and keeping your heart and blood vessels healthy are both important. Here are some things you can do.

  • Test your blood sugar levels and get your diabetes tests on schedule.

    Try to keep your numbers within your target range.

  • Keep track of your blood pressure.

    Your doctor will give you a goal that's right for you. If your blood pressure is high, your treatment may also include medicine. Changes in your lifestyle, such as staying at a healthy weight, may also help you lower your blood pressure.

  • Eat heart-healthy foods.

    These include vegetables, fruit, nuts, beans, lean meat, fish, and whole grains. Limit sodium, alcohol, and sugar.

  • Work with your doctor or diabetes educator to learn which exercises are safe for you.

    Walking is a good choice. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk every day. Try for at least 2½ hours a week.

  • Don't smoke.

    Smoking can make diabetes worse and increase your risk of heart attack or stroke. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.

  • Take medicines as directed by your doctor.

    For example, your doctor may suggest taking a statin or daily aspirin. Some diabetes medicine can also lower your risk for heart attack and stroke.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

Enter K649 in the search box to learn more about "Learning About the Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke With Diabetes".

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.