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Heart Disease and Diabetes

The biggest problem for people with diabetes is heart and blood vessel disease. Heart and blood vessel disease can lead to heart attacks and strokes. It also causes poor blood flow (circulation) in the legs and feet.

heart disease Diabetes can change some of the substances in the blood, causing the openings in the blood vessels to narrow or completely clog up. This results in a blockage or slowdown of blood flowing in the body. A heart attack occurs when a blood vessel leading to the heart becomes blocked.

To check for heart and blood vessel disease, your health care team will do some tests. At least once a year, have a blood test to see how much cholesterol is in your blood. Your health care provider should take your blood pressure at every visit. Your provider may also check the circulation in your legs, feet, and neck.

The best way to prevent heart and blood vessel disease is to take good care of yourself and your diabetes.

  • Eat foods that are low in fat and salt.
  • Keep your blood glucose on track. Know your A1C. The target for most people is under 7.
  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Be physically active.
  • Lose weight if you need to.
  • Ask your health care team whether you should take an aspirin every day.
  • Keep your blood pressure on track. The target for most people is under 130/80. If needed, take medicine to control your blood pressure.
  • Keep your cholesterol level on track. The target for LDL cholesterol for most people is under 100. If needed, take medicine to control your blood fat levels.

What's a desirable blood pressure level?

Blood pressure levels tell how hard your blood is pushing against the walls of your blood vessels. Your pressure is given as two numbers: The first is the pressure as your heart beats and the second is the pressure as your heart relaxes. If your blood pressure is higher than your target, talk with your health care team about changing your meal plan, exercising, or taking medicine.

Target for most people with diabetes: under 130/80

What are desirable blood fat levels?

Cholesterol, a fat found in the body, appears in different forms. If your LDL cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol) is 100 or above, you are at increased risk of heart disease and may need treatment. A high level of total cholesterol also means a greater risk of heart disease. But HDL cholesterol ("good" cholesterol) protects you from heart disease, so the higher it is, the better. It's best to keep triglyceride (another type of fat) levels under 150. All of these target numbers are important for preventing heart disease.

Target Blood Fat Levels for People With Diabetes
Total cholesterol under 200
LDL cholesterol under 100
HDL cholesterol above 40 (men)

above 50 (women)
Triglycerides under 150

If you have diabetes, talk to your health care provider about your increased risk for heart disease and stroke. Check out this link for a list of questions to ask at your next visit.