You can take steps to prevent heart attacks and strokes when you have diabetes. Lifestyle changes can make a big difference. In people under age 75, a quarter of deaths from heart disease and stroke could be prevented. It’s a really good idea to be proactive when it comes to your heart health when you have diabetes. That’s because your risk of stroke or heart attack is double that of someone without it. Here are six ways to help bring down your risk.
Q: My husband has diabetes and says it's OK to drink alcohol. Is that true?
A: Alcohol poses several problems for people with diabetes.
First, after an initial spike in blood sugar, alcohol causes that level to drop. Because being tipsy causes the same symptoms as low blood sugar (sleepiness and disorientation), your husband may not know his levels are low.
Second, if he drinks alcohol while taking glucose-lowering medications, his blood sugar levels can drop to dangerous levels.
Exercise strengthens your heart, lowers your blood pressure, burns calories, and improves your blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Together, this adds up to strong protection. And you don't have to join a gym to get active -- unless you want to, of course. A brisk 30-minute walk at least 5 days a week lowers your chances of heart disease and stroke. If 30 minutes seems like too much, start with less and build up slowly. The key is to walk at a brisk pace and to increase how long and how often you move.
Tip: Consider buying a pedometer (step counter). You can use it to track how many steps you take a day. It can motivate you to be more active.
2. Choose Heart-Healthy Fats
The kinds of fats in the foods you eat affect the cholesterol in your bloodstream. Skip processed snacks and sweets, fried foods, whole milk and cheese, solid fats like butter, and fatty red meats. They have saturated and trans fats, which are not good for your heart. Instead, pick unsaturated fats. They come mainly from plants, like vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds. They are thought of as "good" fats because they improve your cholesterol levels, which is good for your heart. Omega-3 fats are also heart healthy. They help keep your arteries from clogging. So try to eat non-fried fish at least twice a week. Pick healthy fatty fishes like salmon, albacore tuna, sardines, rainbow trout, and mackerel to boost your omega-3 healthy fats. Soybean products, walnuts, flaxseed, and canola oil are other good sources of omega-3s.
Tip: For the best heart benefits, go out with the "bad" fats and add "good" fats at the same time. Instead of a burger or ribs (which have unhealthy saturated fats), order grilled salmon or trout. Instead of using butter when cooking, use vegetable, olive, or canola oil. Instead of cheese on your sandwich, try a little avocado on it instead.