Healthy living can go a long way to help prevent heart disease, stroke, and other heart problems when you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Your heart health is very important as you are two to four times more likely to have strokes and heart disease if you have diabetes. Follow these guidelines for heart-healthy living to meet your ABC goals. Your doctor may tailor your goals based on your age, blood sugar (also called glucose) levels, and heart or other diabetes-linked problems you may have.
A is for A1c Testing for Diabetes
Why Does A1c Matter?
Keeping control of your blood sugar over time helps lower your risk of problems such as kidney, nerve, and eye disease. It may also make you less likely to have a heart attack, stroke, and death from heart disease. Each percentage point you drop in your A1c test result (from 8% to 7%, for example) can drop your risk of kidney, eye, and nerve disease by a whopping 40%.
If you have diabetes, you should check your blood sugar often to make sure your levels are in check. A hemoglobin A1c test is a blood test that measures your average blood sugar level over the past 2 to 3 months. It’s a way to check how well you control your blood sugar over time. A1c measures how much glucose has been “sticking” to your red blood cells. If your treatment changes or your blood sugar control is not on target, then you should repeat the test every 3 months.
What’s Your A1c Goal?
Aim for an A1c of around 7% or less.
How Can You Improve Your Score?
Take your diabetes drugs and make sure you eat healthily, get exercise, and follow the other heart-healthy guidelines below. This will help you reach your A1c goal.
B is for Blood Pressure and Diabetes
About 70% of people with diabetes either have high blood pressure — a score of at least 140/90 (read as “140 over 90”) — or use prescription drugs to keep their blood pressure down. High blood pressure raises your chance of having other health problems that diabetes can cause, like eye disease and kidney damage. It also makes you more likely to have heart disease and stroke.
Why Does Blood Pressure Matter?
Keeping your blood pressure at a healthy level lowers your chances of having heart disease by 33% to 50%. It can also help prevent or delay kidney disease, another common problem with diabetes.
What’s Your Blood Pressure Goal?
Aim for a blood pressure score below 140/80 most of the time. Get your blood pressure checked at least four times a year or at each diabetes checkup. You could also use a blood pressure monitor at home to check your blood pressure more often.
How Can You Improve Your Blood Pressure?
A low-salt diet, eat more foods high in potassium, get regular exercise, limit alcohol, quit smoking, and stay at a healthy weight. When lifestyle changes aren’t enough to control high blood pressure, drugs can help lower it.
C is for Cholesterol and Diabetes
The wrong kinds of fats in your blood can build up in your arteries. This raises your chance of heart disease and stroke. The biggest problem is “bad” cholesterol is called LDL cholesterol.
Why Does Cholesterol Matter?
Keeping your LDL cholesterol at a healthy level can bring down your chances of having heart disease. Your doctor will let you know how much your cholesterol should be lowered.
What’s Your Cholesterol Goal?
Have your cholesterol checked at least once a year. Aim for these scores:
- LDL below 100 for most people with diabetes under the age of 40 or those without heart disease. Experts advise a goal below 70 if you have had a heart attack or other heart problem.
- HDL above 50 for women, and above 40 for men.
- Triglycerides are lower than 150.
How Can You Improve Your Cholesterol?
You can lower your cholesterol and your chance of heart disease by making changes in what you eat and how active you are. Eat a mix of colorful fruits and vegetables. Make other foods that are low in saturated and trans fat and cholesterol, and high in whole-grain fiber, a big part of your diet. Adding omega-3 fatty acids and plant stanols/sterols help. Lose weight if you need to, and get regular exercise.