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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, and getting exercise.

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 fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and low-fat or non-fat dairy foods. Limit sodium, alcohol, and sweets.

  • If your doctor recommends it, get more exercise.

    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.

  • Think about taking medicines for your heart.

    For example, your doctor may suggest taking a statin or daily aspirin.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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