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7 Ways to Avoid Heart Attack and Stroke If You Have Diabetes

Posted 7/20/2016 by UHBlog

Learn how you can reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke if you have diabetes. Ask us.

7 Ways to Avoid Heart Attack and Stroke If You Have Diabetes

People with diabetes should take their condition to heart – literally.

“People with type 2 diabetes have the same risk of heart attack as people who do not have diabetes and have already had a heart attack,” says endocrinologist Stephen Burgun, MD. “Two-thirds of all people with type 2 diabetes die of heart disease.”

Diabetes is a chronic, metabolic disease characterized by elevated levels of blood glucose (or blood sugar), which, over time, can lead to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves.

Despite the emerging global epidemic of diabetes, there are ways you can avoid getting this condition altogether. Or, if you've already been diagnosed, you can learn how to manage your diabetes so you can lower your risks of developing serious health problems, Dr. Burgun says.

“To stay healthy, people with diabetes must control their diet, manage their cholesterol profile, maintain a good body weight, exercise, quit smoking and control their blood pressure,” he says. “Blood sugar control alone is not enough to avoid the heart and vascular complications resulting from diabetes.”

Dr. Burgun recommends these seven ways to lower your risks of developing complications from diabetes:

  1. Eat right. He recommends people with diabetes see a registered dietitian for an individually designed diet plan.
    “A nutritious diet is vital to maintaining good cardiovascular health,” Dr. Burgun says. “The proper diet should be low in sugar, starch and saturated fats and may include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish and lean meats.”
  2. Watch the scale. Obesity is one of the strongest risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Many people with diabetes are overweight and their extra fat increases insulin resistance.
    A woman with a waist circumference over 35 inches and a man with a waist circumference over 40 inches may have metabolic syndrome, with the potential to develop type 2 diabetes. That's why even a modest weight loss of 10 to 15 pounds can help you avoid developing diabetes – and/or reduce your risks.
  3. Get physical. If you have diabetes, it's important to incorporate regular exercise into your life to prevent serious health complications down the road. A workout as simple as a 30-minute walk every day is beneficial.
    Dr. Burgun advises people with diabetes to check with their doctors before beginning an active exercise routine. Diabetics may have heart issues and not know it because they don't have symptoms, he says.
  4. Check cholesterol levels. “Abnormal cholesterol levels are common with type 2 diabetes,” says Dr. Burgun. “People with diabetes should have their cholesterol checked at least once a year to make sure their LDL (bad) cholesterol levels aren't elevated and their HDL (good) cholesterol levels are adequate.”
    Various medications can lower blood cholesterol levels. Many people with diabetes take a drug called a statin, which lowers their high LDL and helps reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke.
  5. Keep tabs on blood pressures. High blood pressure – or hypertension – is known as a silent killer because it has no obvious symptoms.
    “People with type 2 diabetes tend to have high blood pressure, which should be checked regularly,” he says. “High blood pressure increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and kidney failure.”
  6. Quit smoking. Smoking is bad for everyone but it's especially dangerous for people with diabetes. According to Dr. Burgun, smoking affects circulation by increasing your heart rate and blood pressure and making your blood vessels narrower. Smoking also makes blood cells and blood vessel walls sticky, allowing dangerous fatty material to build up, which is one of the causes of coronary artery disease.
  7. Seek professional care. “Taking care of diabetes is a team effort that involves a primary care physician, endocrinologist, nutritionist, ophthalmologist, podiatrist, nurses and others,” Dr. Burgun says. “A medical team approach empowers individuals with diabetes to effectively manage their condition and stay as healthy as possible.”

Stephen Burgun, MD is an endocrinologist and division chief, endocrinology at UH Ahuja Medical Center, and medical director, endocrinology at UH Geauga Medical Center. You can request an appointment with Dr. Burgun or any other University Hospitals doctor online.

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