Heart Disease and Stroke

The Relationship Between Diabetes, Heart Disease and Stroke

Did you know that T2D is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke? In fact, adults with diabetes are twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke than people without diabetes, even if their diabetes is well managed.

And diabetes and heart disease put you at higher risk of complications if you get COVID-19. There are basic steps anyone can take to reduce their risk of getting the virus. Stay vigilant. If you have diabetes and/or heart disease and get COVID-19, you might experience more severe symptoms or serious complications.

Overall, there’s a lot you can do to reduce your risks of heart disease and stroke.

First, talk to your health care provider to better understand your condition and what you can do to stay healthy. With COVID-19, many health care providers are willing to communicate via phone, email or a secure patient portal.

“Diabetes is more complicated than most chronic diseases, so it’s important to be proactive and work with your health care team to learn all you can about how to manage it,” said Robert Eckel, M.D., Professor Emeritus at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and former president of the American Heart Association® (AHA).

“We want patients to have a good understanding of the disease and what steps we’re going to take with lifestyle and medications,” said Eckel, who also serves as President, Medicine and Science for the American Diabetes Association® (ADA).

Reducing your risk starts with making sure your diabetes is well controlled. Work with your health care team to set goals that can get your health on track.

When your blood sugar (blood glucose) is high (called hyperglycemia), it can damage blood vessels over time. Excess cholesterol also makes your blood vessels stiff when there is a build-up of a fatty substance called plaque, affecting blood flow.

Many people with diabetes also have other conditions—including extra weight, high blood pressure and high triglycerides—that increase the risk for heart disease. Work with your health care team, you may need a combination of lifestyle changes and medication to manage those factors.

Stay in contact with your health care team about your progress and make sure you don’t miss your appointments. Be prepared with questions. Talk about steps you can take before your next appointment and how to track your progress.

Many people with diabetes need to take one or more medications to manage their diabetes. Make sure you take all your medications as prescribed. If you are running into challenges or if the side effects are difficult to manage, talk with your doctor about alternatives.

Other Ways to Manage Diabetes, Heart Disease and Stroke

If you use tobacco, stop. Stick your eating plan or work with your health care team for specifics about what’s right for you.

Get your heart rate up. Aim for at least 150 minutes each week of moderate aerobic activity like a brisk walk. This can be split up into 30 minutes of activity every day and doesn’t need to be all at once. If 30 minutes is too much, try taking 10-minute walks three times a day to reach your goal.

With an increased risk for stroke, it’s important that you and those around you recognize the common symptoms of a stroke. F.A.S.T. is an easy way to remember that if your face is drooping or you experience arm weakness or speech difficulty, it’s time to call 911 and get immediate medical attention.

Most of all, stay positive. There are millions of people with diabetes leading healthy lives and you can be one of them.

Learn more about the link between diabetes and heart disease and stroke at KnowDiabetesByHeart.org.

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