Senior Clinical Advisor, Diabetes UK
Having diabetes raises the risk of developing heart disease, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. It’s important to take good care of your heart and blood vessels, especially when you have diabetes.
When you have diabetes three major factors can damage blood vessels and contribute to heart and circulation problems: high blood sugar, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. It’s vital to keep these at healthy levels to reduce your risk of heart disease.
High blood sugar and high cholesterol can damage and block the vessels that carry blood to your heart. This can lead to high blood pressure or make existing high blood pressure worse, putting extra strain on your heart and circulation. Narrowing or blocking of blood vessels can cause problems in other parts of the body, like your arms or legs, which if left untreated can lead to amputation.
When you have diabetes three major factors can damage blood vessels and contribute to heart and circulation problems: high blood sugar, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Reducing your risk of heart disease
Over time, even slightly raised blood sugar levels can put you more at risk of heart problems, however there are steps you can take to minimise this:
- If you have diabetes, you should have checks to measure your HbA1c, blood pressure and blood cholesterol at least once a year. These checks may be delayed or happen differently at the moment due to the pandemic, so speak to your healthcare team if you’re not sure how soon you need these tests.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking makes it harder for blood to flow around your body, especially to your heart. Ask your healthcare team or check out our information if you need help quitting.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet to protect your heart – visit our 10 tips to healthy eating with diabetes, which aim to help reduce blood sugars, cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Be physically active and exercise regularly.
- If you’re living with obesity, get support to lose weight. Losing even a small amount can reduce the strain on your heart.
- Take your medication as prescribed. Some medicines help to protect your heart by reducing high blood pressure and you may take these even if you don’t have any blood pressure problems.