Metabolic Health

Improve Cardiovascular Health in Diabetes through 7 Lifestyle Changes

Reviewed by

Shifa Fathima

People with diabetes are more likely to have other conditions that raise the risk for heart disease and diabetes has long been considered a “cardiovascular risk equivalent. CHD risk equivalent means that a person will have a risk of >20%  to develop a major coronary event (myocardial infarction + coronary death) over 10 years. It has been seen that people with T2DM without coronary heart disease (CHD) events showed a similar coronary mortality as non-diabetic patients who had a previous coronary event. Having both high blood pressure and diabetes can greatly increase your risk for heart disease.

Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, two of the most prevalent chronic conditions, have been connected to one another. People with type 2 diabetes are more prone to developing heart disease and are at a higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke. They're also more likely to have illnesses like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which raise their risk of heart problems or stroke. Here are some examples of this connection:

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if you have diabetes, you are twice as likely as someone who does not have diabetes to have heart disease or a stroke, and you are twice as likely to have these at a younger age (CDC).
  • According to the American Heart Association, persons with diabetes are two to four times more likely to die from heart disease than those without the illness (AHA).
  • According to the AHA, an estimated 68 percent of diabetics aged 65 and older die from heart disease and 16 percent die from stroke.
  • According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the most prevalent causes of mortality in individuals with diabetes are heart disease and stroke (NIDDK).

Lifestyle changes that help reducing the risk of heart disease in diabetics?

It is well known that lifestyle changes definitely benefit people with prediabetes and T2D. The American Heart Association (AHA), published 'Life's Simple 7' which are the seven risk factors that people can improve through lifestyle changes to help achieve ideal cardiovascular health. They are-

  • Smoking Status
  • Physical Activity
  • Weight
  • Diet
  • Blood Glucose
  • Cholesterol
  • Blood Pressure

The great news, folks, is that research shows that people who maintain at least 5 of these factors at the ideal level can reduce the risk of diabetes by 70% and of heart attack, stroke, and heart failure leading to cardiovascular death by a gratifying 80%! Additionally, following these healthy lifestyle choices results in creating positive changes in prediabetes and T2D individuals as well.

7 Lifestyle And Metabolic Health Goals

Ensure that you get enough physical activity

Consistent workouts have been shown to have a positive effect on the human body while lowering the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Aerobic exercises like walking, jogging, biking and swimming are known to strengthen the heart and improve blood flow. Exercising regularly also balances blood sugar levels in the body but utilizing glucose. 

Control Cholesterol 

Consume a diet that is rich in fiber and has a low glycemic index. The glycemic index is a value used to measure how much a food item raises blood sugar. Items that have a low glycemic index are good for people with impending health issues. 

Reduce and Monitor your blood sugar levels

Reduce your blood sugar levels by consuming more fiber rich foods and eliminating sugar from your diet. Only consume naturally occurring glucose which is found in fruits and vegetables. Monitor your BS levels from time to time by getting regular checkups done. Post meal and pre meal sugar tests can be done for regular monitoring of sugar. 

Manage and keep blood pressure under control

Keep blood pressure issues at bay by managing your stress levels and mental health. Meditate and try to remain calm in situations where you feel agitated, workout regularly and keep visiting your doctor to monitor your blood pressure levels. Get enough sleep so your body relaxes and returns to its natural calm state. 

Eat better, eat healthy

If you have cravings and tend to give in and eat junk, stop. Eat organic and superfoods like quinoa which are known to be healthy for the heart and blood sugar levels. Limit eating junk food to once a week and avoid eating things that are oily and greasy. 

Lose weight

Losing excess fat immediately helps with health ailments. Follow a proper workout schedule and maintain portion control in all your meals. Fix a proper time to eat daily and aim for a healthy body mass index. 

Stop smoking 

Smoking and drinking leads to major cardiovascular issues. It also increases the risk of mouth and lung cancer, inhibits proper functioning of the heart, damages blood vessels by causing a buildup of plaque and increases blood sugar levels in the body. 

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Testing for Heart disease

Your doctor will understand your total risk for heart disease based on your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and weight. Other tests to assess your heart health that your doctor may prescribe include:

  • An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) is a test that measures the electrical activity of your heart. An electrical impulse flowing through your heart causes your heartbeat.
  • An echocardiogram (echo) is used to determine the thickness of your heart muscle and how effectively it pumps.
  • An exercise stress test (treadmill test) to determine how well your heart works while stressed.

Bottom Line

Whew, this is a rather intense list of activities to follow and keep track of! But as they say No pain, No gain! So imagine the dividends these efforts will yield. The biggest silver lining is that many research studies have independently endorsed these choices and goals. If followed diligently and maintained, these lifestyle choices are bound to reward you with excellent health and happy life!


What exercise is best for type 2 diabetes?

If you are someone that has type 2 diabetes, following a regular workout schedule will greatly benefit you in maintaining good health. Walking, swimming, cycling, aerobics, resistance training and calisthenics are some of the forms of exercise that are good for people with type 2 diabetes.

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