Having diabetes can greatly increase your risk of having additional health problems like high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease, especially if your blood sugar levels are not kept within a healthy range.
Heart disease and diabetes
According to the National Heart Association, at least 68 percent of seniors with diabetes have some form of heart disease, also known as cardiovascular disease.
Having high blood sugar for an extended period of time (diabetes) can damage blood vessels throughout the body, including those in the heart, kidneys, and eyes. When the blood vessels in the heart are damaged, the heart must work extra hard in order to move blood throughout the body. The longer you have unregulated diabetes, the greater the chances are of you developing heart disease. Keeping your blood sugar levels within a healthy range is a crucial step in preventing heart disease.
Signs of a heart attack
Signs of a heart attack can vary from person to person and between men and woman. For example, women are more likely to experience pain in their jaw during a heart attack, while men are more likely to experience pain in their left arm. If you experience any of the following signs of a heart attack, seek medical attention immediately.
Signs of a heart attack:
- Pain or pressure in the chest that lasts longer than a few minutes and comes and goes
- Pain or discomfort in the back, neck, jaw, shoulders, or arms
- Shortness of breath
- Sudden fatigue
How to prevent heart disease and diabetes
Managing your blood sugar is the best way to protect yourself from heart attack and stroke. You can treat the two simultaneously by adopting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle and seeing your doctor for regular checkups.
The following actions are encouraged to reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes:
- Follow a healthy diet
- Get regular exercise
- Lose at least 5 percent body weight
- Get plenty of sleep
- Reduce your stress levels
If you have diabetes, you can also manage your diabetes ABCs to reduce the risk of heart disease.
- A – A1C. This test measures your average blood sugar level from the past three months. The higher the number, the more damage is done to the heart, kidneys and eyes. Most people with diabetes should aim to keep their A1C below 7 percent.
- B – blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force in which blood moves through your body. When it gets too high, that means your heart is doing too much work. A good blood pressure goal for most people with diabetes is below 140/90 mm Hg.
- C – cholesterol. Every person has two types of cholesterol: LDL and HDL. LDL is the “bad” cholesterol that can build up and clog your arteries. HDL is the “good” cholesterol that clears LDL from your blood vessels. Keeping these balanced can reduce your risk of heart disease significantly.
These numbers can vary from person to person, so talk with your doctor to determine what your health and fitness goals should be.