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May 2022

4 Ways to Boost Heart Health if You Have Diabetes

When you’re diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, heart health matters—a lot. You’re twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke than someone who doesn’t have the condition.

Despite that, fewer than one in five Americans with type 2 diabetes are properly managing their risk for heart disease, according to a new report from the American Heart Association.

Reasons include cost, racial disparities, and not sticking to treatment plans. Some are outside your control, of course. Talking with your provider about your barriers, though, may help you find the resources to overcome them.

In addition, here are four important steps you can take to manage your cardiovascular health.

1. Track your blood glucose.

Make sure you’re getting regular A1C tests, which measure your average blood glucose over two to three months.

Your healthcare provider will give you a target, often below 7%. Physical activity plays a big role in reaching it. Aim for 150 minutes per week of brisk walking, easy cycling, or other moderate-intensity movement.

2. Bring down your blood pressure.

When your blood pushes too forcefully against your artery walls, your heart has to work harder. Most people with diabetes should aim for a blood pressure below 140/90 mm Hg.

Eating a nutritious diet and managing stress can reduce blood pressure. Try meditation, deep breathing, or talking with a mental health professional.

3. Control your cholesterol.

Buildup of this fat clogs your blood vessels. Ask your health care team how often you should have it checked. While healthy adults should be screened every 4 to 6 years, you might need more frequent testing.

If your numbers are high, ask what you can do to lower them. People older than age 40 might need to take medicines, such as statins, to control cholesterol.

4. Stop smoking—or don’t start.

Smoking narrows your blood vessels, increasing your risk for heart disease and many other complications.

You don’t have to go it alone. Go to, call the National Quitline at 800-QUITNOW (800-784-8669), or ask your health care team for help.

Note: Walking is safe for most people with diabetes, but if you haven’t been active in a while, check with your provider. They, or a registered dietitian, also can help you make changes to your diet.


Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, MSN, BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2022
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