Diabetes and Your Cardiovascular Health

Post Reviewed By Expert

This post was reviewed by our Director of Clinical Excellence and Oversight.

If you are living with diabetes, your healthcare providers are probably also keeping an eye on your cardiovascular health. That’s because, like many chronic diseases, diabetes doesn’t live on an island by itself. It’s linked to other conditions, like cardiovascular disease (CVD), which includes serious conditions such as heart problems and stroke.
Diabetes and Heart Health
Perhaps you’ve heard that people diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at higher risk for CVD. Understanding the links between diabetes and cardiovascular health is the first step in managing diabetes-related complications, especially ones associated with CVD. Let’s dive in and learn about the risks and the many ways you can reduce them.

What’s Glucose Got to Do with My Heart and Lungs?

Quite a bit, as it turns out. Having diabetes means you have too much glucose, or sugar, in your blood. The reason may be that your pancreas does not create insulin, which processes the glucose, or that the insulin your body creates doesn’t work as well as it should. Another possibility is that your body may not respond well to insulin. This is known as insulin resistance.

High glucose can damage heart-related blood vessels and nerves. That makes a heart attack more likely because the damage prevents blood from getting to the heart. Similarly, a stroke can happen when blood is prevented from reaching the brain.

Model of a human Heart

Even when glucose is controlled, people with diabetes are at higher risk for CVD. That’s because of conditions more common to them, such as:

  • High Blood Pressure (Hypertension). When a person has high blood pressure, blood moves through their arteries with more force, making the heart pump harder. Also, high BP can damage blood vessels and the walls of the arteries. The combination of hypertension and diabetes can double the risk for CVD.
  • Unhealthy Cholesterol Levels. People with diabetes often have high levels of low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, known as the “bad cholesterol,” and low levels of high-density lipoproteins, or HDL, the “good cholesterol” in their bloodstream. When cholesterol builds up it can clog blood vessels and lead to heart disease. A high level of triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood, is another risk.
  • Inactivity. Lack of physical activity is closely tied to CVD. There are great health benefits in formal exercise like walking or cycling. But everyday activities like housework, gardening, and running after the kids counts too! Movement plus weight loss can even prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes and reduce the chance for heart attack or stroke.
  • Obesity. Excess weight is a big risk factor for CVD. Losing weight can increase your ability to process glucose. And even if you’re not overweight, extra belly fat increases your chance of developing heart disease.
  • Smoking. Smoking puts people with diabetes, and others, at risk for heart disease and stroke. If you don’t smoke, don’t start! And if you do smoke, it’s time to quit. According to the Mayo Clinic, within just three months of quitting, you’ll cut your risk of heart disease in half!
  • Family History. Heart disease runs in families. Although you can’t choose your DNA, you can choose a lifestyle that will reduce the risk.
blood pressure monitor

Your healthcare provider may suggest that you check your BP regularly using an at-home blood pressure monitor.

The ABCs of Heart and Blood Vessel Health

Now that you know the risks, what can you do to reduce them? A handy way to think about this is managing your “Diabetes ABCs.”

Ac1

A is for A1C.

Regular A1C blood tests can track your average glucose level over a two-to-three-month period. Many people with diabetes strive for a level below 7, but your doctor will confirm the level that’s best for you. Try to stay in the range your healthcare provider set for you as much as possible.

Reduce your A1C by following your diabetes care plan. That may include taking insulin or other medications, sticking with a meal plan, and exercising regularly.

blood pressure cuff

B is for Blood Pressure.

For most people with diabetes, the current consensus is a BP of less than 140/80 is optimal. A more aggressive goal below 130/80 is recommended for some people depending on individual risk factors. Talk to your doctor about your ideal BP.

Keep blood pressure under control by taking prescribed medicine. Get regular, approved exercise. Limit salt, alcohol, and caffeine. Lose extra weight and stop smoking. Your doctor may suggest that you check your BP regularly using an at-home blood pressure monitor.
cholesterol

C is for Cholesterol.

Learn your ideal level for good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol. Cholesterol can build up and clog the blood vessels, causing a stroke or heart attack. High cholesterol doesn’t cause symptoms. That’s why you need to be checked regularly.

Maintain a healthy cholesterol level by taking all prescribed medicine and eating a heart-healthy diet, which often includes reducing red meat, full-fat dairy, and processed cakes and cookies, and adding more salmon, blueberries, walnuts, and apples to your diet. Also, exercise regularly, lose weight, quit smoking, and drink alcohol in moderation.
No smoking sign

S is for Stop Smoking.

There’s a lot of support out there if you’re finally ready to kick the habit. Check with your healthcare team or search online for local smoking cessation groups; many are free to join. The federal government has some great resources too.

If you’re beginning to see a pattern here, you’re right! The good news for people like you with the mindset  to do all they can to manage their CVD risk is that the “recipe” for health has many familiar elements. Now it’s up to you to do your part (and we know you can!).

grandparents playing with grand children

There are great health benefits in formal exercise like walking or cycling. But everyday activities like housework, gardening, and running after the kids counts too!

HCD Is Your Partner in Cardiovascular Health

When you partner with your care team, the result can be lasting improvements to your health and happiness for years to come. At HCD, we’re honored to be part of the solution by supplying the insurance-covered medical products you need, when you need them. Once you connect with us, we’ll do everything we can to make getting the supplies you need easier for you. That includes making sure you are qualified through your insurance company, completing all the paperwork, and working directly with your physician and insurance company.

HCD has the products you need to reduce the cardiovascular risks associated with diabetes. Check with us for the leading brands of blood glucose monitors and test strips, Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGM) by Dexcom and FreeStyle Libre, blood pressure monitors, as well as products for incontinence, urology, wound care, and other needs.

Enter your phone number on the bottom left of the screen and one of our friendly team members will give you a call. We look forward to caring for you like family, because to us, that’s what you are.

Happy HCD phone representative

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Disclaimer:

Unless otherwise noted, the recommendations in this document were obtained from the sources indicated. Be advised that information contained herein is intended to serve as a useful reference for informational purposes only. HCD cannot be held responsible for the continued accuracy of or for any errors or omissions in the information. All trademarks and registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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