Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

Diabetes: Lower Your Heart Disease Risk - Topic Overview

It's true—diabetes raises your risk of heart disease. That means your risks of heart attack and stroke are higher when you have diabetes. Diabetes is plenty to keep up with as it is. That explains why dealing with both heart risk and diabetes can seem like too much all at once.

But it's also true that good heart-health care has a lot in common with good diabetes care.

  • Most healthy choices that help control your diabetes also help your heart.
  • Add a few heart-healthy habits, and you'll lower your heart disease risk.

How are heart disease and diabetes connected?

When you have diabetes, there are times when you have a higher-than-normal level of sugar in your blood. High blood sugar can damage the walls of your arteries. This damage can lead to plaque buildup in your arteries. The plaque buildup can narrow and even block your arteries.

Your risk of having heart disease is even higher if you have:

  • High blood pressure, which pushes blood through the arteries with too much force. Over time, this damages the walls of the arteries.
  • High cholesterol, which plays a key part in the buildup of plaque inside the artery walls, making them narrow.

How can you lower your heart disease risk?

You can lower your heart disease risk by:

  • Keeping your cholesterol numbers at healthy levels.
  • Controlling your blood sugar.
  • Lowering your blood pressure if it's high.
  • Not smoking.

This isn't as hard as it might sound. Many of the same healthy habits help control your blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight.

You're probably already doing more for your heart than you think.

Eat wisely

Plan your foods with diabetes in mind. Then think heart-healthy, and make changes if needed.

  • Start with your carbs.
    • Try to eat about the same amount of carbohydrate throughout the day. This helps keep your blood sugar in a healthy range.
    • Use your favorite way to balance your carbs. Do you prefer carb counting or the plate format slideshow.gif?
  • Add a heart-healthy focus.
    • Choose foods that are high in fiber and low in cholesterol, saturated fat, trans fat, and salt. That means fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat meats and dairy.
    • Cook with oil instead of butter.
    • Limit salty, processed foods such as crackers, chips, cookies, and canned soups.
    • If you need food tips that are healthy for both your heart and your diabetes, work with a registered dietitian.

You can choose from several heart-healthy eating plans(What is a PDF document?) to help control your blood pressure and cholesterol.

Be active

Being active is good for your diabetes and for your heart. It helps manage your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. And it plays a key part in controlling your weight. In turn, a healthy weight also helps control your diabetes and heart risk.

  • Talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program.
  • Choose a way to be active that you enjoy. Walking is a good choice if you're just starting out or your time is limited. Resistance exercise also helps to improve your fitness level and improve your blood sugar control.
  • Day by day or week by week, add a little more time or effort to your activity. Build up to at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.
1|2

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 17, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

Diabetes: Lower Your Heart Disease Risk Topics

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Low
0-69
Normal
70-130
High
131+

Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Diabetic tools
Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
woman flexing muscles
10 strength training exercises.
 
Blood sugar test
12 practical tips.
Tom Hanks
Stars living with type 1 or type 2.
 
Woman serving fast food from window
Video
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Video
 
Middle aged person
Tool
are battery operated toothbrushes really better
Video
 

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Article
type 2 diabetes
Slideshow
 
food fitness planner
Tool
Are You at Risk for Dupuytrens Contracture
Article