How to Reduce Your Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
By Nina Nazor
What is Cardiovascular Disease?
Cardiovascular disease is a group of conditions that affect the heart and/or the blood vessels.
Among the most common cardiovascular problems are:
Facts About Cardiovascular Disease
- Heart disease is the leading cause
of death in America today
- In 2003, 71,300,000 Americans had one or more forms of cardiovascular disease
- 910,614 men and women died of cardiovascular disease
in 2003, while 554,643 died of cancer
- More than 500,000 US women die of cardiovascular disease every year, exceeding deaths for cancer,
accidents, and diabetes combined
- Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of premature death among people with diabetes
- It is estimated that
65 percent of people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke
Important Role of Prevention
It is vital that we all understand
the important role of a healthy and active lifestyle in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, especially in people with
The guidelines designed for preventing heart disease include aggressive
management of risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity.
In this article you will find the tools to help you make healthy lifestyle changes to reduce
your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Blood Glucose Levels, Cholesterol
and Blood Pressure Control
you have diabetes, your goals for achieving good control must be the following:
- Blood glucose levels below 120 mg/dL at fasting and
below 180 mg/dL (or below 140 mg/dL better if possible) 2 hours after the first bite of a meal.
- Glycosylated hemoglobin (A1C) below
- Blood Pressure below 130/80 mmHg
- Cholesterol-LDL ("bad cholesterol”) below 100 mg/dL
Learn more about:
Aspirin therapy (75–162 mg/day) has been recommended to prevent cardiovascular problems
in people with and without diabetes. Several studies have demonstrated the efficacy of using aspirin to prevent cardiovascular
events such as stroke and myocardial infarction.
Low-dose aspirin therapy
should be used as prevention strategy in men and women with diabetes who are at high risk (over age 40 or with other CVD risk
factors) for cardiovascular events, but despite its proven efficacy, aspirin therapy is not used enough in people with diabetes.
However, remember that you should always consult with your doctor before starting any therapy.
Read more about Aspirin therapy and diabetes by reading Aspirin Therapy in Diabetes Position Statement. American Diabetes Association. Diabetes
Care 27:S72-S73, 2004
If you Smoke, Quit
Smoking - or using any other tobacco products- doubles the risk of developing cardiovascular
Your body not only receives about 5,000 different toxic chemicals
when you smoke, but smoking damages your blood vessels, which are also affected by high blood glucose levels. Also, each time
you smoke your heart rate and blood pressure raise.
However, the good news
is that if you quit smoking your risk to develop cardiovascular disease is reduced dramatically, especially after one year.
Exercise Every Day
Exercising improves the function of your cardiovascular system, reduces bad cholesterol (LDL), increases good cholesterol
(HDL), helps insulin work better, helps you control your weight, reduces your stress levels an raises your general sense of
You should aim to do any aerobic exercise you enjoy for 30 to
60 minutes a day most days of the week.
Learn more about The Benefits of Exercise in Diabetes Control.
Eat a Healthy Diet
A balanced and healthy diet, low in processed carbs, with good fats, fresh veggies and lean
protein like fish or skinless chicken, will help you not only to control glucose levels but to lower your risk of cardiovascular
disease or other chronic diseases. Some tips to help you are the following:
Maintain a Healthy Weight
What is a healthy weight? To find out, use the Body Mass Index calculator. The body mass index will let you know if you have a healthy weight, if you are below
your healthy weight or if you are overweight.
If you need to lose some
weight, you should know that just by losing 10% of your body weight you can help reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease
and improve diabetes control. Small amounts of weight reduction can decrease the amount of medication you need to keep your
blood sugar in the healthy range, and will make you feel better and look better. You can do it!
To help you, here are some good resources:
Get Regular Checkups
Periodic testing will help you detect any early signs of cardiovascular disease.
You must have an electrocardiogram, cholesterol and blood pressure tests as well as the measurement of albumin in
If you have an abnormal electrocardiogram your doctor might want
you to have a cardiac stress test.
Learn more about your Diabetes regular checkups and the Diabetes Yearly Planner
Manage Your Stress
Some studies have reported that chronic emotional stress may be associated with heart disease
and early death.
If you have diabetes, stress levels in your daily life
can affect your health and even increase blood glucose levels, blood pressure and alter many other processes in our bodies.
Therefore you must try to include stress management techniques in your daily routine to help you live healthier. Find out How to Reduce the Stress in Your Life.
Source: Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes Position Statement. American Diabetes Association.
Diabetes Care 29:S4-S42, 2006