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:
- Coronary heart disease
- Heart failure
- Hypertension and
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
The Important Role of Prevention
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 diabetes.
The guidelines designed for preventing
heart disease include aggressive management of risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes
In this article you will find the tools to help you make healthy
lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Glucose Levels, Cholesterol and Blood Pressure Control
If 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.
hemoglobin (A1C) below 6.5 percent
- Blood Pressure below 130/80 mmHg
- Cholesterol-LDL ("bad cholesterol”) below 100 mg/dL
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.
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:
- Two or three times a week you should eat fatty fish
such as salmon, sardines or trout, which have a high content of Omega 3 fatty acids that help reduce the risk of heart disease.
a week eat red meat, and the other days eat poultry, fish or vegetable protein like tofu and beans. This way you will give
your body less cholesterol, saturated and trans fats and more healthy fats as well as high quality protein.
- Eat at least 3 cups
of fresh vegetables and 2 portions of fruits daily.
- Take one or two portions of fat-free or low-fat dairy products daily.
- To find out how many
calories you need daily and how much you should eat of each group of foods, Design Your Own Diet Plan.
- Learn What you Must Know About Carbs.
- Learn to use the The Exchange System for Meal Planning to count carbs easily with the Carb Counting and Food Exchanges Photo Gallery.
- Find out How to Read Food Labels
- Drink alcohol in moderation and find out about Alcohol and Diabetes
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 urine.
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
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.
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