Diabetes and Heart Disease: Tips for Prevention
Diabetes and Heart Disease: Tips for Prevention
Arthur Schoenstadt, MD

People with diabetes can do a lot to prevent heart disease and stroke. Some suggestions include the following:

* Keep your blood glucose under control. You can learn if it is under control by having a hemoglobin A1c test at least twice a year. The hemoglobin A1c test tells you your average blood glucose for the past two to three months. The target for most people is below 7.

* Keep your blood pressure under control. Have it checked at every doctor visit. The target for most people is below 130/80.

* Keep your cholesterol under control. Have it checked at least once a year. The targets for most people are an LDL ("bad") cholesterol below 100, an HDL ("good") cholesterol above 40 in men and above 50 in women, and a triglyceride level (another type of fat in the blood) below 150.

* Choose an activity you like and stay active. Make physical activity a part of your daily routine. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Check with your doctor to learn what activities are best for you. Take a half-hour walk every day. Or walk for 10 minutes after each meal. Use the stairs instead of the elevator. Park at the far end of the lot.

* Make sure that you eat heart-healthy foods. Include foods high in fiber, such as oat bran, oatmeal, whole-grain breads and cereals, and fruits and vegetables.

* Cut back on foods high in saturated fat or cholesterol, such as meats, butter, dairy products with fat, eggs, shortening, lard, and foods with palm oil or coconut oil.

* Lose weight if you need to. If you are overweight, try to exercise most days of the week. See a registered dietitian for help in planning meals and lowering the fat and calorie content of your diet to reach and maintain a healthy weight.

* If you smoke, quit. Your doctor can tell you about ways to help you quit smoking.

* Ask your doctor whether you should take an aspirin every day. Studies have shown that taking a low dose of aspirin every day can help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

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