If you have heart disease, you likely put a lot of effort into eating healthy foods, staying active and keeping on top of your medication. It’s a lot of work. And so is diabetes. People with this condition must monitor their diet, get regular exercise and keep an eye on their blood sugar levels. And the millions of Americans who have diabetes or pre-diabetes are twice as likely as people without the condition to have heart disease or a stroke. If you have diabetes, take these steps to help lower your risk of heart disease and be healthier:
Kick the habit. Smoking is a particularly bad idea for people with diabetes, as both smoking and diabetes narrow your blood vessels. Smoking also increases your risk of other complications, such as amputation.
Lose weight, especially around your belly. People with a lot of extra weight around their midsection are at greater risk of heart disease, as abdominal fat can make your body produce more LDL (bad) cholesterol. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and high-fiber foods, and cutting back on sugar, refined carbohydrates and junk food can help you drop pounds safely.
Better your blood pressure. Having high blood pressure or prehypertension (a reading of 120/80 mm Hg or higher) can increase your risk of heart attack, stroke and other problems.
Stay active. Try to be physically active for at least 30 minutes a day. Talk to your healthcare provider before you begin any exercise program, especially if you haven’t exercised in a while.
Ask about aspirin. Taking daily aspirin may help some people lower their risk of heart disease and stroke. But it’s not safe for everyone, so talk to your doctor about the pros and cons—and the right dose—before you do anything.