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Diabetes Resource Center

The disease that doubles your risk for heart attack and stroke

Research shows a strong correlation between diabetes and heart disease exists. And while much has yet to be learned about this correlation, two out of three people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke, according to the American Diabetes Association. “If you have diabetes, your risk of heart attack or stroke is increased two to four times compared to someone who does not have diabetes,” said Denise Bennett, certified diabetes educator at  Piedmont Fayette Hospital. “When someone has type 2 diabetes, the body does not respond as normal to its own insulin which results in too much blood sugar. Too much blood sugar can affect arteries, leading to heart disease.”

Diabetes sometimes causes arteries to become less elastic, making high blood pressure more likely.

As time progresses, high blood pressure causes artery walls to thicken, which makes it easier for deposits of fat and cholesterol (plaque) to collect.  “If the blood vessels to your heart become partially or totally blocked by fatty deposits, then the blood supply is reduced or cut off, resulting in a possible heart attack,” said Bennett.

“The good news is that diabetes can be controlled and a healthy lifestyle can help to avoid the complications of diabetes and heart disease.” Bennett suggests incorporating the following healthy lifestyle tips to ward off heart disease:

Eat healthier: Food affects blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol. Fill up on fiber; eat fresh vegetables and fruits; eat whole grains; use half the salt a recipe calls for and avoid adding salt at the table; don’t add sugar and avoid fried foods. Last, choose lean cuts of meat, trimming all visible fat. If fat is needed, use a heart healthy one, such as olive or canola oil.

Improve fitness: Being active for 30 minutes or more on most days of the week is very beneficial. This does not have to be structured exercise. Activities such as cutting the lawn, biking, hiking and walking the dog count, too. 

Stop smoking: If you smoke, quitting is the most important thing that you can do for yourself. There are many programs and prescriptions that can help you. Discuss this with your doctor. 

Plan medication: When you are prescribed medication related to diabetes, blood pressure or cholesterol, it is important to take the medication as directed by your doctor.

Check blood sugar: Each time you check your blood sugar, be sure to note the date, time and blood sugar result. This information will help assess how your lifestyle is working to help you or if changes need to be made. 

Take care of your feet: Together, diabetes and heart disease can reduce blood flow to feet. Inspect your feet daily for cracks, blisters, scratches, sores or dry skin. Call your doctor if you find any problems.

For more information on heart health, visit Piedmont Heart Institute. To learn more about diabetes and prevention, visit the Diabetes Resource Center at Piedmont Atlanta HospitalPiedmont Fayette Hospital or Piedmont Henry Hospital.

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

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