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Tips for Heart-Healthy Living With Diabetes

B is for Blood Pressure and Diabetes

About 70% of people with diabetes either have high blood pressure -- a score of at least 140/90 (read as "140 over 90") -- or use prescription drugs to keep their blood pressure down. High blood pressure raises your chance of having other health problems that diabetes can cause, like eye disease and kidney damage. It also makes you more likely to have heart disease and stroke.

Why Does Blood Pressure Matter?

Keeping your blood pressure at a healthy level lowers your chances of having heart disease by 33% to 50% -- a big benefit. It can also help prevent or delay kidney disease, another common problem with diabetes.

What's Your Blood Pressure Goal?

Aim for a blood pressure score below 140/80 most of the time. Get your blood pressure checked at least four times a year or at each diabetes checkup. You could also use a blood pressure monitor at home to check your blood pressure more often.

How Can You Improve Your Blood Pressure?

All the things that are good for your heart will help you control your blood pressure: eat a low-salt diet, eat more foods high in potassium, get regular exercise, limit alcohol, quit smoking, and stay at a healthy weight. When lifestyle changes aren't enough to control high blood pressure, drugs can help lower it.

C is for Cholesterol and Diabetes

The wrong kinds of fats in your blood can build up in your arteries. This raises your chance of heart disease and stroke. The biggest problem is "bad" cholesterol -- called LDL cholesterol. Other things that raise your risk of heart disease and stroke are included in a calculation to find out if you will need medication to lower your cholesterol.

Why Does Cholesterol Matter?

Keeping your LDL cholesterol at a healthy level can bring down your chances of having heart disease. Your doctor will let you know by how much your cholesterol should be lowered.

What's Your Cholesterol Goal?

Have your cholesterol checked at least once a year. Aim for these scores:

  • LDL below 100 for most people with diabetes under the age of 40 or those without heart disease. Experts advise a goal below 70 if you have had a heart attack or other heart problem.
  • HDL above 50 for women, and above 40 for men.
  • Triglycerides lower than 150.