If you have diabetes, you could also have an elevated risk of developing cardiovascular disease, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Cardiovascular disease can be brought on or complicated by poor leg circulation, also a risk for those with diabetes.
Several factors determine whether you will develop cardiovascular disease. Fluctuating blood-glucose levels restrict blood vessels and damage tissue, which leads to circulation problems. When you have diabetes, your blood vessels are more fragile and more susceptible to damage from smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.
While these are the risks, there are steps you can take to lessen them. Follow these seven tips to help prevent or delay future heart problems:
• Stop smoking. Nicotine narrows and restricts blood vessels. So does diabetes. This hits your health with a double whammy. Smoking impacts your health whether you have diabetes or not, so don’t add more health complications. Take action now and quit smoking.
• Lose excess weight. Being overweight tends to increase your blood-glucose, blood-pressure and blood-fat levels. Even a modest loss of 10 to 20 pounds will improve your levels. To lose weight, skip crash weight-loss programs. Emphasize eating healthy foods that are low-fat and high-fiber and increasing your physical activity. Check with your health-care provider to determine how to safely increase your physical activity.
• Exercise more. Physical activity keeps your heart healthy, while helping to keep blood-glucose and blood-fat levels in control. So don’t be a couch potato. Talk with an exercise specialist to start a sensible physical-activity program. Check with your health-care provider before beginning or increasing your physical-activity program.
• Control your blood pressure. High blood pressure increases the risk of stroke. Have your blood pressure tested at least twice a year. If your blood pressure is over 130/80, lose weight. This is a lower target than for people who don’t have diabetes. Follow a low-salt meal plan and ask your health-care provider about medications to lower blood pressure.
• Control your blood-fat levels. High levels of blood fats, including cholesterol, increase the risk of heart disease. When you have diabetes, you are more likely to have high blood-fat levels. So pay special attention. Know your blood-fat levels. Lowering levels of so-called bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) in those with diabetes lowers greatly the risk of a heart attack.
• Control your blood glucose. Monitor regularly your blood glucose. Know how to take action based on your blood-glucose checks. Know how to adjust your medication, exercise and meal plans when plasma blood glucose is either unusually high (above 180 mg/dl two hours after eating or above 140 mg/dl before eating) or unusually low (below 80 mg/dl or below 90mg/dl with symptoms). Frequent high blood-glucose readings increase the risk for diabetes complications.
• Know your target A1C. Hemoglobin A1C is a blood test that your health-care provider performs to tell how well your blood glucose has been controlled over the past two months or so. Your A1C should be below 7. If it runs over 7 and nearer to 8.0 or higher, ask your diabetes-treatment team for help with your treatment plan.
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